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Pipeline wish lists growing

Jason Unrau and Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 13/05) - More nurses, more social workers, more addictions counsellors, more police, more training for tradespeople and more technical advisors.

All the talk about Mackenzie pipeline riches has people across the NWT itchy to see the results.

Chief of the Gwicha Gwich'in Council Peter Ross is getting fed up.

"We've got nothing (in Tsiigehtchic)," he said Monday, at an Inuvik session of the GNWT-sponsored workshop on social impacts of the proposed pipeline. "No nurses, no doctors, no police. Now's the time to correct this. Even without the pipeline, the social impacts are already here."

Ross' sentiment was also a common refrain in a similar workshop in Fort Simpson.

Lack of doctors and nurses available to visit or be stationed in outlying communities, a lack of mental health and addictions counsellors, increasing family violence, more proactive and preventive programming and a need to train more health staff were common concerns among those in attendance.

Stan Sanguez, a band member from Jean Marie River, was one of several workshop participants who was adamant that the government should allow decisions to be made in the communities.

"Every time they do it for us, not enough money goes around... it never works for us," he said. "Let us do our work. Stay the frig out of our face. I think that's more beneficial than the government running things for us."

Andy Langford, director of planning, accountability and reporting for Health and Social Services, talked at the Inuvik workshop about increases in alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, gambling addictions, crime and family violence that are to be expected if and when the pipeline is built.

Intensify social issues

"(The pipeline) won't create new social issues, but it will intensify or exacerbate existing ones," he said.

The NWT has twice as many heavy drinkers, nine times the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and more than four times the emergency shelter admissions compared to the rest of the country, according to the department of Health and Social Services.

"We've become so focused on what this pipeline is about that we're forgetting about what the communities need right now," said Inuvik Native Band Chief Richard Nerysoo.

"If you don't have the capacity to build the services and programs (the communities are asking for) then all you have are empty organizations," Nerysoo said.

The government will produce a report reflecting the concerns that arise from these workshops, Langford said.