Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, October 18, 2007
There's no question that family violence is a problem in the North.
As any organizer involved in National Family Violence Awareness Week will tell you, the NWT has some of the country's highest rates of spousal abuse, rates that go hand-in-hand with some of the poorest literacy rates, highest poverty rates and largest drug and alcohol problems.
With new money (often accompanied by new problems) flowing into many communities, it's beginning to look like problems will get worse before they get better.
But people are taking the bull by the horns in some communities.
Kudos to organizers at the Acho Dene Band in Fort Liard for bringing this issue to the forefront, and going about it the best way they can.
A week of programs recognized the underlying problems that cause abuse, and tackled them at every level, from elders right on down to school children.
Abuse can be a chain, passed from father to son, from mother to daughter. Anywhere a link can be severed is good, and it can stop the cycle dead in its tracks.
Now, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who will say "violence is good," but you might find some who aren't willing to talk about the problem.
They claim that men bear too much of the brunt when it comes to turning violence around, and that the process itself is "emasculating."
Let me tell you something about the men I know.
I come from a family of bad tempers - especially my dad. He had a hard time keeping himself in check, and when he didn't, it could be ugly. But he always tried.
In fact, I've only seen him hit someone out of anger once: when he saw a friend hit a woman.
Now, this seems like one of those rare situations where violence is not only social acceptable, it might be considered preferable.
I was about 14-years-old, and the whole family was camped out at Lac La Hache in British Columbia. This guy, an old friend of my dad's, had been a real problem for much of our camping trip. He had gotten into a few altercations already, drunk from dawn to dusk, and just being a pain. Even I thought about slugging the guy.
His sister-in-law started to get after him for his behaviour, and in the end, he pushed her and started to hit her. So Dad ran across the campsite and pushed him back. Hard.
The whole campsite stopped dead. No one knew what to do. They just sort of ... dispersed.
The friend went off to drink more, the sister-in-law was crying, and we had just seen dad lose it, something he hated doing.
After the incident, I remember my sister asking Dad jokingly, "feel better now?"
"No," dad responded, staring straight ahead. Not even a little bit."
Dad knew he hadn't solved one thing by hitting his friend.
It's hard to play any gender role in this modern age, but hurting those around you is no part of being a man. And it's no part of being a woman either.
But we've got to start somewhere.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The people have spoken.
After a public forum at the community hall, town council is hammering out the final details in what may become our newest bylaw.
After arriving at the community meeting and settling in, I noticed that the crowd wasn't that large.
Maybe a youth curfew isn't the most important issue in town.
But through the course of the meeting the room filled and we had some good discussions.
It appears that most people want this curfew as a way to reach out to the parents who are having troubles at home.
Most of the residents who took the mic said they support the idea and want to see it develop.
One mother stood up and told council that they had no right to impose a curfew on her child.
She said she and her son had a good working relationship that was based on trust and she always knew where he was. I applaud that woman because she seems to have her affairs in order. But at the same time, she is a minority.
It's more than obvious that we have social problems in our community.
For whatever the reason, a group of our youth are vandalizing public and private property.
There is also a responsible alliance of youth out there who want to squash the bad reputation that has been given to the young people of Inuvik.
A few of them were at the bylaw revision committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
The students brought their concerns about the curfew, and one of them asked how fair the police would be when approaching a late-night wanderer.
I just see this whole issue as a matter of good versus bad.
There are bad kids in our town and there are good ones, too.
Some good kids do bad things on occasion. It does happen.
What we should be doing is focusing on the youth and on changing them from bad to good.
This whole curfew issue is a matter of trust. Right now, as a community we cannot trust some kids to be by themselves.
So, we're working to keep them off the streets at night.
It sounds like a good start, but like it was mentioned at the forum, we need a follow-up plan too.
Now the town council and the bylaw revision committee are re-working the draft bylaw.
With the input of the community, they have more information to ease the process.
Soon, we may hear a siren, warning young people to get indoors.
There are talks that the curfew might only be temporary, like a three-month term.
I say we try it out and see where it brings us.
If the rowdy kids act out and cause more trouble, we can always gather again and think of something else.
For all of you parents and concerned residents who don't want a curfew, I think you might have missed the boat.
But that is what happens when you wait for someone else to speak for you.
I went into that forum looking to start a fight with some under-achieving parents, but all I found was a lot of people who are ready to be a part of the solution.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The rabid puck heads in Rankin Inlet are about to shake off the summer blues and get their first live hockey fix of the past six months this coming week when the Rankin Inlet Senior Adult Hockey League (RISAHL) kicks off its 2007-08 season on Sunday, Oct. 28.
The Rankin circuit has grown to become the most successful recreational league in Nunavut and, quite possibly, the entire Northern region.
The league hopes to pick up exactly where it left off, with a full house on hand to watch a doubleheader of action to begin the new season.
The RISAHL's executive members are promising lots of surprises for local fans throughout the year, culminating with the extremely popular Avataq Cup memorial tournament.
Although we still have not received official confirmation, it is also hoped Rankin's own celebrity rink announcer and game DJ, Jose Kusugak, will return for another season at the timekeeper's bench.
Make no mistake about it, the Rankin league grew into somewhat of a phenomenon during 2006-07, attracting about 150 fans on a nightly basis.
The league became a happening, and the arena was the place to be on game nights.
In fact, the league executive has a daunting task facing it to build upon the success of the previous year.
Although it won't be easy, it's important to the community that they pull it off.
The tilts in the league last year became more than just a hockey game on many nights.
Groups of regular fans sat or stood together in the same area of the stands for every game.
People mingled in the concession area during the intermissions to get caught up on the "news" during the week, swapped stories and simply enjoyed each other's company.
Game nights often became an unofficial gathering at the arena that was good for the mood of the community.
Add the fact they also saw some pretty darn good hockey played, and a night at the arena was an exciting way to chase away the winter blues.
The Rankin league will also be trying to send a team to the first Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Championship this coming year in Quebec.
This event has been long overdue and excitement has been mounting among adult rec players for the past six months across Canada.
The level of competition promises to be extremely high at the event - not only will it be a proud moment to see a Kivalliq team take to the ice for the first tournament of its kind in history, it will be extremely interesting to see how a Rankin squad stacks up against the best recreational players in Canada.
Those in Rankin who couldn't free up the time to take in league games on a regular basis in 2006-07 should make the effort this season.
The warm, exhilarating atmosphere provided by the action on the ice, the music reverberating off the walls and, most importantly, the fans in the stands is quite special to behold on a cold winter night in Rankin.
Not only will you be part of the crowd and enjoy your night at the arena, you'll also be doing your part to help Rankin keep its status as Nunavut's Hockey Town.
Now that's hockey!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The last time a bylaw was presented to council making helmet use for bike riders mandatory, it fell flat on its face with only one councillor willing to support it. That was only five years ago.
An informal poll of Wind's colleagues by News/North Monday indicates that his proposal may be bound for a similar fate unless he can convince them otherwise.
Only one other councillor was willing to support it outright.
Nonetheless, Wind comes armed with some impressive data.
Over the last 30 years, the number of cyclist deaths in Canada have gone down by 400 per cent.
Statistics indicate that a corresponding increase in bicycle helmet use over that period has done much to shape that result.
Several provinces, including Ontario, Alberta, and B.C., have passed helmet laws as did many cities, including neighbouring Whitehorse.
Some may argue that adopting such restrictive legislation will lead us into a nanny state run by whiney do-gooders.
But it wouldn't be the first time unsafe habits have been outlawed for the common good.
Would all the people who have survived car accidents because they were wearing seatbelts prefer to go back to the day when they didn't have to wear them? Or what about the people who have quit smoking out of frustration with rules barring smoking in public places?
The biggest problem will be enforcing a helmet bylaw.
How do you give a seven-year-old kid a ticket? Do you try and track down the parents? Or confiscate bicycles? There are a lot of potential headaches for City Hall to work through here.
If a helmet bylaw ever does pass, there are sure to be plenty of growing pains.
What profession often tops the list of those most trusted by the public? Firefighters.
While firefighting is a career choice, for many people it can often begin as a volunteer job.
Yellowknife's fire department has 24 full-time firefighters and 20 paid, on-call firefighters.
When we say paid, it's $25 for Wednesday training nights and $50 every time they're called out to a fire.
That sum may just cover a bit of dry cleaning, so the volunteers must do it for the experience, excitement, camaraderie and sense of duty.
The image of the quiet fire hall with oceans of time between moments of heart-pumping drama battling infernos is what the public sees but that can be deceiving.
There is always training, always maintenance, ongoing medical calls, and just being ready for anything at anytime, which is probably the most difficult task of all.
There's real danger too, which is what the training is all about.
Yellowknife lost Fire Lieutenant Cyril Fyfe, 41, and Firefighter Kevin Olson, 24 in March 2005.
Like police officers, firefighters face the unexpected as a matter of course. There's no one to whom to turn when confronted with catastrophe except themselves.
So last week was Fire Prevention Week, which is why Yellowknifer carried a special section devoted to the Yellowknife Fire Department.
It's our good fortune every week is fire prevention and rescue week at the fire hall.
The rest of us can carry on with our lives, not thinking about those inevitable emergencies, confident there are trained, well-equipped firefighters ready to suit up and move out on a moment's notice, despite the risks to life and limb.