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Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Epidemic of death:
Kevin Varey and Clifford Sangris should still be alive

Marshall Sayers, 21. Jerry Betsedea, 36. Delbert Francis, 39. Scott Dowdall, 38. Wilfred Tonka, 52. Jason Christensen, 21. Chris Henderson, 41. Roderick Simon, 29. Kevin McNeely, 21. Albert Lafferty, 22. Jason Dean, 24. Freda Hope, 31.

If you don't remember those names, they are all NWT residents who died in a variety of snowmobile accidents since the beginning of 2000. Last year was particularly tragic; Sayers, Betsedea, Francis and Dowdall died in the first five months.

Now we have to add Clifford Sangris, 28, and Kevin Varey, 32, to this grim list.

The circumstances may be different, but they were all doing something they loved when they died: riding snowmobiles.

Some were caught in overflow and succumbed to the cold. One went through thin ice on Prosperous Lake and died within sight of a cabin. Two drowned in the Mackenzie River trying to skip across open water. Another crashed into a grader that was parked beside the Mackenzie River ice road with its lights off. Three were killed after two snowmachines crashed one deadly night in Fort Good Hope.

In at least three cases, including the Dec. 31 deaths of Sangris and Varey, speed was a factor.

For the families of the NWT's two latest victims, the deaths come at a particularly difficult time. It was the holiday season and Varey and his girlfriend were preparing to announce their engagement. Sangris was described by his family as a great guy. Both should have been back at work at Diavik, preparing for another trip onto the land and for establishing their families.

Most of the deaths were preventable. When are we going to learn?

We all thrill at the sight of snowmachines safely skipping across open water. We gasp when daredevils send their machines soaring.

Unfortunately most of us also have stories about speed demons who race down city streets, through private property and rip up golf greens.

The common sense that guides most of us seems to be left behind with the surge of adrenaline that accompanies the horsepower snap of modern snowmobiles.

Yellowknife and the rest of the Territories have suffered enough. Next time you climb on board, think about the dangers. Remember that death can come in an instant. Don't forget that you have loved ones waiting at home.

So throttle back, leave the booze at home, put on your helmet, and make sure you are prepared for the unexpected.

Get home alive.

No more guilt over beliefs

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

I stopped going to church a good many years ago when, in my opinion, it started getting far too involved with politics.

To me, the church overstepped its bounds in trying to impose its will on people, rather than passing on the Word as it was intended.

In fact, the greatest gift the Lord bestowed upon humanity is free will.

The laws were etched in stone, the Word is told and the consequences of not following the rules during your time in this life are well documented.

Yet, when all is said and done, the choice for how you live your life is yours and yours alone.

All that being said, I still consider myself a good Christian and am not the least bit ashamed to admit it.

I am also a proud Canadian, and take every opportunity to trumpet the fact we live in the greatest country on Earth.

Why then, were there times this past month when I felt guilty over wishing someone a merry Christmas or celebrating the birth of our Lord?

The answer, unfortunately, is all too clear.

I fell into the trap of being overly conscious of being politically correct at the cost of my own true beliefs.

Yes, I've been told so often that I have to be so sensitive to the beliefs of others that I put their beliefs ahead of my own.

What's even worse, I put those beliefs ahead of those who gave their lives for my country and my sins.

I've been wishing people a Merry Christmas for 47 years with a smile on my face and now, suddenly, I'm told I've been wrong all these years and should be saying happy holidays in case there's someone within earshot who gets offended because they don't believe in the birth of our Saviour.

Hey, in my line of work, being sensitive to the beliefs of others is second nature, but enough is enough.

I would hazard a guess I'm like most Canadians, or Christians, in that I scratch my head and wonder how did we ever let it reach the point where we're made to feel guilty in our own country for expressing our pride and beliefs.

Well, I've made a New Year resolution: I'm not going to pay attention to such silliness anymore.

I believe in God and I believe in the birth of the Saviour Jesus Christ.

I believe Canada is the greatest nation on Earth, and I know it was built on the fundamental foundation of Christianity.

I often get upset with those who confuse the difference between religious beliefs and human rights.

However, I've never been as upset with anyone as I was with myself for feeling guilt over wishing people a Merry Christmas this past month.

I was ashamed deep within myself for feeling that way, however fleeting it may have been.

I am Canadian and I am a Christian - and I will never allow anyone to make me feel guilty about my values or beliefs again.

That's one New Year's resolution you can take to the bank will never be broken.

Year-end burn

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

Local fans of the Simpsons television series can now take pride in the fact that like Springfield - the cartoon homeland of Bart and Lisa - Inuvik has its very own landfill fire.

Though true that Springfield's is a tire fire (not a landfill roast), with no restrictions on dumping for much of the nearly three decades that Inuvik's landfill has been in operation, it's a pretty fair bet that there's more than a few tires sizzling in our burning heap of trash smouldering outside of town.

By the outgoing landfill contractor's estimate, 80 per cent of what's buried in the dump is cardboard and paper - both recyclable - which makes marvellous fuel for fire.

Before the environmental movement hit its stride and citizens of the developed world started to realize the impact their packaged lifestyles were having on Mother Nature, the bury and forget mentality ruled the day when it came to dump management.

As municipalities started to understand seepage and ground water contamination, dumps were required to have liners to mitigate this.

People were prohibited from tossing batteries, old paint cans and used motor oil into the regular landfill and these items were separated at the door, so to speak.

Enter Inuvik's landfill, where before AB Salvage took it over in 2000, it was a throw-away free-for-all.

Think about landfills around the territory employing this same game plan and it paints a grim picture.

For the past five years, AB Salvage has been working hard to sort through this colossal mess of everyday trash mixed with batteries, washing machines and tires.

AB Salvage even set up a recycling station at the dump entrance to encourage people to sort their own garbage.

Despite best intentions, the landfill contractor says people still managed to sneak in oil hidden in other containers, and so on.

Though the contractor's efforts to pull out caustic contaminants perhaps decades earlier, the place remains "years away from being anywhere like landfills down south."

Apart from the fact that Inuvik's dump lacks a liner - which to anybody who believes in gravity means that come spring thaw all the landfill run-off spills downhill towards Boot Lake - when the town had the chance to get behind AB Salvage's recycling efforts, it balked.

Even knowing that by awarding AB Salvage the next three-year landfill contract would mean continued efforts - at the very least - to pull the bad stuff out from the rubbish heap, the town awarded the contract to another business.

Whether the new contract holder will continue AB Salvage's sorting efforts remains to be seen.

While all of these things have nothing to do with the fire itself, if you've smelled something rich in the air this holiday season, keep in mind it's the landfill giving a little something back to the community for all its efforts in filling the place up. What a wonderful Christmas present!

Crystal ball

Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum

Out with the old and in with the new. That's the saying heard from many lips at this time of the year.

Gazing into the crystal ball for 2006, it's more likely the saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same" will prove to be a better fit.

You don't have to be Nostradamus to foresee events that have dragged on over the past few years will continue to make news in the coming year.

High on the list of things to watch is the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline. With hearings scheduled for communities around the NWT, speculation about the future of this mega-project is sure to be a hot topic of conversation.

In Fort Providence, work on the long-awaited Mackenzie River bridge might begin.

In communities around the Deh Cho, health care will remain a concern. With doctors, nurses and other health workers in high demand and short supply, issues are sure to arise. Hopefully it won't take a serious accident for people to take notice.

As always, situations relating to the weather and a variety of animals from bison to loose dogs will continue. These stories are as predicable as death and taxes.

In the near future, candidates for the federal election will be out in the communities making a variety of platform promises.

On Jan. 23 voters will be at the polls to choose a leader. In Fort Simpson, residents will also be voting on a plebiscite to remove restrictions on alcohol.

The crystal ball's answer is a bit murky on whether either vote will have any affect on changing the status quo.

Predictions aside, there are some things it would be great to see more of in the new year.

Last January, students at Deh Gah school in Fort Providence raised $2,500 and their counterparts at Thomas Simpson school in Fort Simpson raised $1,150 in support of victims of the tsunami.

We should all take a lesson from them.

It's heart-warming to see communities pull together in times of need even if they don't personally know the people they are helping.

On the other side of that coin, it's heart-wrenching to see communities pull themselves apart through arguments and family feuds.

The Deh Cho is approaching a crossroads and the choices made will affect almost every aspect of the future. Communities will need to speak with a united voice to ensure their message is heard.

Exciting times are just ahead and no matter what happens it's sure to be an interesting year in the Deh Cho.


In the Jan. 6 story "Battle on the Barrens" Garry Hubert's company was referred to as Wolf Pack Productions. The name of the business changed in October to Wolfman Promotions and Productions. Yellowknifer regrets the error.