Editorial page

Friday, July 25, 2003
Make it mandatory

Hank Van Vulpen was another casualty in the NWT's battle with the bottle. His night on the town ended tragically on a downtown sidewalk outside the Cave at about 1:45 a.m. last Nov. 3. His blood alcohol level was four times higher than the legal limit to drive. He had already been thrown out of the Gallery bar three times.

  • 78 per cent of NWT residents over the age of 15 are classified as "current drinkers."
  • 85.6 per cent of Yellowknife residents are current drinkers.
  • 21.6 per cent of Yellowknifers who drink typically consume five or more drinks. The territorial average is 34.1 per cent
  • 26.6 per cent of male drinkers in Yellowknife typically consume five or more drinks compared to 15.9 per cent of females.

    SOURCE: 2002 NWT Alcohol and Drug Survey, NWT Bureau of Statistics.

  • The well-known mine worker died later in an Edmonton hospital from injuries, the coroner ruled last week, which likely resulted from hitting his head on the steps.

    The injury came as Van Vulpen was being escorted out of the Cave by two bouncers. Police and ambulance personnel found him outside, unconscious.

    The trauma was so severe that, according to the coroner's report, Van Vulpen likely lost consciousness quickly. A blood vessel in the base of his brain ruptured and his brain swelled up. He likely lost his ability to breathe, leading to cardiac arrest and death.

    Coming out of this needless death, chief coroner Percy Kinney has recommended mandatory training for bar security staff and that the Cave and Gallery develop firm policies for dealing with intoxicated persons. The NWT Liquor Licensing Board is expected to meet in September to discuss Kinney's report.

    Training for bouncers is important because under the NWT Liquor Act, bar staff can use "the force that is reasonably necessary" to remove a person from the premises.

    Do most bouncers understand what reasonable force is?

    Some training is available now for bar workers, but it is voluntary. All a bar needs to do is call the licensing board.

    But bouncer qualifications should go beyond being a big guy with muscles. There must also be knowledge of the law and a bar's responsibilities to back it up.

    The board should work with police, the Workers' Compensation Board and other agencies to develop a certification program for bar security staff. It doesn't have to be a long program, just enough that bouncers understand legal limitations and what can happen when violence erupts.

    This isn't just more red tape. Bars served the alcohol that Van Vulpen drank. They must be prepared for the consequences.

    And given the NWT's alcohol-fueled problems -- 58 per cent of accidental deaths in 2001 were alcohol related -- it's a common sense step that might prevent another unnecessary death.

    Victim of ignorance

    Editorial Comment
    Chris Puglia
    Kivalliq News

    Any Grade 6 social studies student can draw a map of Canada, or at least trace one.

    Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) whose latest tourism magazine is riddled with errors.

    Errors include missing cities, places spelled incorrectly and even missing provinces.

    With out even looking at the map in the magazine entitled PureCanada, one can already guess what region has been slapped with one of the mistakes.

    You guessed it, Nunavut.

    Once again Northern Canada is the victim of ignorance and researchers who don't have the time and patience to ensure something is done right.

    On the map Nunavut, is spelled Nunavit. It might not be as bad as leaving P.E.I. off the map altogether, but it is insulting nonetheless.

    The magazine also lumps the three territories of the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut together.

    The lack of information on Nunavut is also indicative the commission has not bothered or cared to update their information.

    Canadians are always complaining that other countries don't have an accurate understanding of what Canada is.

    Northerners find it insulting that even citizens of their own country pay them little heed.

    Magazines such as the one put out by the CTC should endeavour to not only attract people to our great nation, but to educate them on what Canada has to offer.

    If they are not going to take that responsibility seriously enough to put out a product that at least appears to have made that attempt then they should hand it off to someone who will.

    All Canadians should be offended by the ignorance this magazine spreads, whether it is intentional or not.

    Being part of the media industry I know mistakes occur, but their is a difference between a spelling error and what is evidently a failure to apply due diligence to a project.

    In fact, the magazine is such a joke that even the tile is ironic. It's pure something, but that something isn't Canada.

    Ride the magical history tour

    Editorial Comment
    Terry Halifax
    Inuvik Drum

    I snuck away from the last few days of the arts festival to take in the Dawson Music Festival last weekend.

    While I had a blast with our neighbours across the border, I couldn't help but feel a bit cheated out of the fun I left behind in the NWT.

    With the Great Northern arts fest, the Holman's Billy Joss golf tournament, Yellowknife's Folk on the Rocks and Dawson all going on around the same time, it occurred to me that there should be a lot more thought put into the summer fun schedule.

    With some planning from the NWT and Yukon arts and tourism people, we could have a touring music and arts fest that begins in the South and rolls north all summer.

    On the NWT side it could begin in Fort Smith, move on to Fort Resolution and Hay River and across the big lake to Yellowknife.

    From there they could float a barge down the Mackenzie, stopping in Providence, Norman Wells, Tulita and Good Hope.

    On the Yukon side they could do much the same thing beginning at Watson Lake and moving north.

    It could be timed that both tours could converge on Inuvik or Tuk at the same time for one huge finale that would be the mother of all music and arts festivals.

    Just imagine: with sponsorship from MuchMusic, NTCL, a few airlines, a couple beer companies and record labels we could make Woodstock look like a tea party.

    There is a real thirst for summer fun in the North and we should all work together to make the most of the short season.

    Pool party

    It's finally sinking in to most residents that this year-round pool is finally a reality here, with the beginnings of construction at the site.

    The new facility will be a huge boon to the community and with all this hot weather, I think most of us wish it would open right now.

    While the financing is arranged for the major part of construction, the fundraising committee just took a huge hit with the Lions cancelling the dream home deal.

    The lottery was going to bring $250,000 to the committee who are working their water wings off to get to the $2 million mark.

    Various events and initiatives are pulling in small amounts of cash, but they really need a deep pocket donation.

    There has been some sizable donations from several energy producers like Devon and more recently PetroCanada, but we have yet to hear from some of the big players in this pipeline deal.

    Since they will be taking a lot from the community, I think a gesture of $250,000 isn't a lot to ask of giants like Shell, ConnocoPhillips and Imperial.

    The corporate citizen aside, I'm sure they'd like the sound of the Imperial Family Centre, so c'mon K.C., step up to the plate!

    Just the facts

    Editorial Comment
    Derek Neary
    Deh Cho Drum

    Acho Dene Koe band members in Fort Liard have elected a chief and council for the second time in just over a year.

    Floyd Bertrand has been returned as chief in fairly convincing fashion.

    He says the mandate of the previous council was paralyzed by chronic arguing at band council meetings. So he and a majority of councillors agreed to hold an early election. Essentially, Bertrand gambled his leadership in hopes that the councillors he saw as problematic would be shed from band council.

    With voter support squarely behind him, Bertrand now has some new councillors with whom to work. There would seem to be some pressure on him to get the job done over his new two-year term. Should there be more damaging internal flare ups, at the very least his leadership abilities will likely be called into question for not being able to keep council functional.

    Now that the dust has settled in Fort Liard, let's hope that the petitions and the rumours go away and stay away. The community is rife with tales of underhanded tactics that allegedly occurred leading up to last week's election. It's nearly impossible to separate truth from fiction in the quagmire of Acho Dene Koe politics.

    There have been numerous petitions, or at least word of such petitions, circulating over the years. Some have demanded the removal of the chief or the resignation of particular councillors. Really, what good have these petitions ever done? When a band member has a concern about a particular issue, he or she should be approaching a councillor and clearing the air directly. Even better, attend a band council meeting or a public meeting and demand answers.

    Eva Hope, former sub-chief, decided not to run again in the latest election. She felt she had earned the respect of many community members prior to joining council, she said. Over the past year as a councillor, however, she said she felt that she has somehow become a "bad person" in the eyes of others.

    That's a shame. The whole situation is nothing but a shame.

    It's time to clean up the politics and the personal attacks. Everyone is losing because of it.

    Two votes or one?

    Fort Simpson village council was thrown a curve Monday when Mayor Tom Wilson voted twice on motions. In both instances, Wilson went against the narrow majority of councillors present, evened the count and then cast the deciding vote. So the result was that two motions were decided despite having an actual 3-3 deadlock. Only by giving the mayor two votes, a system apparently agreed upon in 1990, were things "settled."

    Wilson isn't to be faulted. He only did what was required of him.

    But the councillors who said the rule should be changed are right. It's better that the mayor only votes when he's required to break a tie among councillors. Two votes is too many.