Friday, June 23, 2000
It's 3:30 on a typical Friday afternoon. Johnny D. is upset because he wasn't even close to the mark he wanted, let alone needed, on his math test.
He's 13 and in Grade 8 at a Yellowknife school. With his parents at work, and having little supervision, he heads towards the best solution he can come up with -- the Centre Square Mall.
Johnny isn't alone.
On any given day, hundreds of our teens will head to city malls to hang out. Unfortunately, some of these kids are ruining the reputations of their peers, and causing problems that retailers have good reason to complain about.
Last week these concerned retailers joined other groups including students, RCMP and social workers to form a committee to try and come up with a solution.
This is a good move.
We just have to look at statistics to realize how young our population in the city is.
Of the 17,702 people reportedly living in Yellowknife, 5,547 are under the age of 19. This represents a whopping 31 per cent of the population -- a much higher rate than most southern cities.
Last Tuesday's workshop served two purposes.
It allowed retailers to voice their concerns -- they say their biggest worry is the lack of respect youth show them and their customers. It also allowed youth to have their say. They say their reason they go the mall is simple, they're bored.
It's clear this committee, which is a sub-committee of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce's education committee, has its work cut out for it.
Whether it's agreeing with the recommendation of opening a youth-operated coffee shop, or going through with the offer by the Chamber of Commerce to start a course on human relations for security guards and retailers, this committee is bound to make a positive difference.
He likely doesn't realize it now, but Devon MacPherson reeled in more than just a lunker lake trout June 3 while fishing with his family at Prelude Lake.
The 35-pound fish is certainly a trophy catch and the eight-year-old Yellowknife lad has the right to feel pretty good about himself even now.
But the real significance of the catch is what it will mean 10, 15 or even 20 years from now. He will be able to look at the fish, stuffed and mounted, and likely be able to remember the sights, sounds and smells of that fine day on the lake, when all was good and everyone was having fun.
It will be a snapshot of what life was like when he was eight. It's making memories like this that helps life become all the more special.
The salaries of elected officials is one of those topics that is guaranteed to get a rise out of people. Everybody has an opinion on paying politicians.
A recent survey reveals that the GNWT cabinet is the highest paid in the country. That news will get some people's blood boiling.
The cost of Northern travel and accommodation might be one reason, but Yukon and Nunavut ministers get by on a lot less.
Another argument for paying politicians well is that it draws a better class of candidate. There is a valid case to be made for salaries that compete with the private sector.
However, it all boils down to whether the public is getting its money's worth. And that judgment is administered on election day.
Deh Cho Drum
It's a simple fact that a reporter cannot know everything they write about intimately.
They cannot experience everything first-hand. Logistics and time constraints don't allow for it. Reporters often have to rely on others' remarks to get a sense of the way things are, or at least the way that person perceives them.
That was the case for me Saturday -- for a while, anyway. I went over to observe a firefighters' training session near Pat Rowe's Fort Simpson bottle depot. The new recruits were being sent into a smoking building to rescue "victims" trapped inside. As usual I scrawled notes based on what I saw and heard. I asked a few participants questions and received some rather descriptive responses. I was pleased.
Things were moving along as usual, that is until somebody (I don't know who uttered the words first) suggested that I put on the gear and go inside. Everyone else thought it was a great idea. Naturally, I was reluctant at first, but soon agreed to give it a try.
The first thing that becomes obvious is that putting on the firefighter's gear is an onerous task, especially for the uninitiated. Thankfully, I received plenty of help. There are straps, hooks and velcro everywhere.
Once you get past that stage, you have to adapt to having an air tank on your back that weighs roughly 15 kilograms. It's a little bothersome, but well worth the extra exertion since it permits clean air to be piped into your lungs while in a smoky dwelling. You also become quite conscious of your breathing while wearing the mask.
Remember when you were a little kid and you climbed under the blankets in bed? After a while, the process of inhaling and exhaling seemed very noticeable. Well, it's like that in the mask, magnified several times.
So I stepped inside the smoky building, accompanied by Fort Simpson fire Chief Pat Rowe. We were to make frequent hand/arm contact to ensure we didn't become separated. The buddy system is a life and death matter in a real emergency.
The source of the smoke, a barrel full of burning dried grass, became apparent. The smoke became quite thick when Pat ignited a smoke bomb, after which, there was no telling what was what. It was very disorienting. Staying low and feeling for the wall were the keys to manoeuvring.
I emerged after 10 minutes with a healthy sweat going. That much I expected because it was a hot day -- besides the fire inside -- and the firefighters were drenched from performing the exercise repeatedly.
It was most definitely an eye-opening experience. Mind you, I knew everything was taking place under controlled circumstances. I didn't have to worry about actually searching hurriedly for an unconscious victim inside, and then carrying him or her out.
The fire was contained and there was no chance of the building giving way structurally.
Firefighters also face the prospect of having their equipment fail, such as their air tanks. It's a rare occurrence but something for which they must be prepared.
When you consider that they risk their own lives, as volunteers, for the sake of ours, that's something we should be thankful for indeed.
There is no doubt there will be more than a few people in the Kivalliq Region shaking their heads in disbelief at the reasons given by addictions counsellor Beth Thomas for leaving Rankin Inlet.
The reasons for this are twofold.
First, many people would have you believe things like death threats just don't happen in the Kivalliq. Not serious ones anyway.
Second, Thomas may have irritated a number of people dependent on the drug trade during her stay in Rankin Inlet.
The problem was that she just wouldn't take no for an answer when it came to improving services in the hamlet.
Regardless of what people thought about Thomas personally, she produced results.
And since we have no valid reason to think otherwise, we must believe her contention that local dope dealers made her life miserable enough to force her out of town.
If this is the case, it illustrates just how far we still have to go to overcome our drug problem.
Dope dealers sending death threats to addictions counsellors is totally unacceptable, no matter how high or low the counsellor may be on some people's popularity list.
This, combined with some of the court sentences that have been handed out for trafficking convictions recently, have all of us shaking our heads in disbelief.
Those who believe this type of criminal behaviour doesn't happen in our region are the real dopes.
Minister responsible for the Power Corp., Ed Picco, deserves a tip of the hat for the Baker Lake initiative.
Hopefully, the Power Corp.'s partnership with Nunavut Arctic College, to train residents for government jobs coming to their community through decentralization, will set a precedent.
As advocates of local training and hire, we hope other government departments setting up shop in the Kivalliq will follow Picco's lead.
It may not stop the ultimate failure of decentralization, but we will have Nunavut workers who are trained and able to move with their job if and when the day comes that our territory moves towards a centralized government.
While the initiative is a positive move towards maximizing the potential in local communities, it does little to off-set the high cost of travel and doing business in a Northern territory with a decentralized government.