Friday, February 27, 1998
A city living under a cloud

It's a frightening reality to see underage Yellowknifers smiling for the camera and speaking so proudly about their newfound habit of cigarette smoking, however dangerous their actions may be.

With the NWT Department of Health and Social Services reporting that more than 46 per cent of girls aged 15 through 19 regularly smoke and 38 per cent of the boys in the same age bracket are now lighting up, it's clear that this deadly habit isn't showing signs of dissipating any time soon.

Addicted a so early an age, it seems unlikely the problem will fade as they grow older.

It's even more troubling to hear comments from our own Ald. Cheryl Best, a smoker herself, that current bylaws restricting smoking appear to be working and that she's seeing fewer smokers in Yellowknife than five years ago. Not true.

In fact, according to the NWT chief medical officer Andre Corriveau, rates are rising in the North like never before.

Corriveau says between 60 and 70 per cent of the people over 15 are lighting up in the Eastern Arctic and about 50 per cent of the same age group in the Western Arctic taking up the deadly habit. Lung cancer in the North also continues to rise rapidly and as it has for several years now, is claiming a high percentage of lives annually than anywhere else in North America.

Elected city officials and bureaucrats are now grappling with the idea of assuming responsibilities for health care should at least open their eyes to the hard and sobering truth about the known hazards and costs of nicotine -- lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema and the raft of other diseases smoking causes.

Then maybe they'll be able to realize just what they're up against.

Mining tourists

In light of the growing need to develop the tourist industry, why not a mining museum? You can't have too many tourist attractions.

Long the dream of Erik Watt, veteran Yellowknifer, a mining museum makes all kinds of sense. Instead of designating money to encourage the film industry to use this town as a backdrop, perhaps we should stick to things we know.

The Prince of Wales Heritage Centre proves Yellowknife knows museums. We congratulate Erik Watt on receiving a well-deserved plaque from the city. Now, let's show him we really care. Build the museum.

On the ice

The heartbreaking down-to-the-wire loss suffered by Kelly Kaylo's rink at the Scott Tournament of Hearts curling championships in Regina Thursday morning wasn't a happy moment for the city. The Yellowknife team had gone so far, it was a tough loss to swallow.

But we won't have much time to mope. In a few weeks, the Arctic Winter Games will open, and along with them even more outstanding examples of Northern curling skill. If the calibre of play at the Games even comes close to what was demonstrated by Kaylo's rink this past week, we're in for some exciting matches.

And curling is only a small piece of the action. We can hardly wait.

Editorial comment
Chasing, or chasing away, the tourists
Ian Elliot
Inuvik Drum

Inuvik is a place where once you spend your money, the town is done with you.

Inuvik businesses don't see the benefit of tourism if the money is not being spent in their particular establishment.

It is not a pretty picture, but that is what was painted at last week's Western Arctic Trade and Tourism meeting where the impact of tourism was discussed. And those comments did not come from disgruntled tourists, paid consultants or people with no stake in the town -- they came from people who have owned businesses here for many years and who are dismayed at how poorly some businesses in town go about making visitors feel welcome.

It hardly needs to be said that tourism is the greatest source of found money for towns since traffic tickets were invented. Tourists, as the saying goes, travel light and carry nothing but their wallets, and towns across Canada are becoming very aggressive about getting those wallets to open in their communities.

Perhaps in a town still fixated on oil booms and government largesse, we still don't know what to make of knots of tourists lugging Minoltas and spending only a few hundred dollars in a few days here.

Still, get a few thousand tourists spending a few hundred dollars each during our short summer season and pretty soon you're talking about real money. And it's money that stays here in the community because the average tourist dollar gets passed around an average of seven times. It benefits everyone.

The visitor's centre here in town had some 5,500 visitors last year. About 5,000 people stayed in the campgrounds in and around town. The Delta and Sahtu already gets 20 per cent of the tourists who come to the NWT and we have a healthy share of well-heeled foreign travellers, the majority of them from Germany and Switzerland. The most popular activity among those visitors was touring Delta communities, with outdoor activities like canoeing, fishing, boating and hiking.

There's money waiting there to be made, but building a town as a prime tourism destination is a slow process. The Great Northern Arts Festival is currently the best-looking jewel in the crown, but there are others waiting to be developed.

The big tourism draw here is our wilderness and the fact that Inuvik is the end of the road. Anything that can be done here -- a hiking trail to the treeline, large-scale day trips, river tours or eco-tourism ventures by, or in partnership with, one of the aboriginal organizations now that the land claims are settled: in fact, anything that will convince a tourist that we are worth the considerable expense of getting here -- is a help.

And once the tourists get here, they have to be sent away happy, convinced that they have to tell their friends about us, or come back themselves some day. It won't just happen by itself, but with the proper efforts, tourism could rank up there with caribou as one of this area's most productive renewable resources.

Editorial comment
Bugging the health centre
Arthur Milnes
Deh Cho Drum

For the record: the Deh Cho Drum and its editor are not in possession of a scanner nor have I ever borrowed one in my time here.

Two: If I did own a scanner, I have better things to do with my time than bother listening in on ambulance calls.

Three: I hate chasing ambulances, fire engines and police cars.

Four: I've always worked here under the assumption that the village siren will go off when the type of emergency that might warrant a newspaper story occurs.

So, if anyone tells you -- or has told you -- that little me spends his time working to undermine the delivery of health care here by listening to calls on a scanner, you should know something about that person -- they're a liar. Period.

What they've told you is simply not true and I would suggest that this type of person probably has another agenda when engaging in such smears.

Anyway, to make a long story short, this news of my "bugging" the health centre reached my ears late last week. As I'm doing here with this column, I immediately took steps to inform the powers that be in Deh Cho Health and Social Services that the story was completely made up and without a shred of truth -- as most gossip usually is in the first place.

And, if truth be known, I haven't had any difficulties during my dealings with the health professionals around here. The nurses and doctors on the frontline seem first-rate and downright friendly while Kathy Tseto and Nick Sibbeston have always been upfront with me while I was writing health stories. While my job is to show both sides while writing a news story, I will say that I personally and journalistically have no quarrel with anyone I've met here involved with health care.

Rest assured, however, that if I was going to begin bugging operations and attempt to turn the Drum into the Fort Simpson/Deh Cho Inquirer, there'd be about 25 offices I'd "Watergate" first before I made my way to health. In some of those offices, I suspect, I'd surely find some news. News, that is, that some folks simply don't want you to know.

On another matter: full apologies this week to Ken Davidge and the Fort Simpson Liidlii Kue Community Beautification Society. They were promised that a column Ken wrote would appear in last week's edition. It did not and the only person at fault here is me. Period.

Ken and his colleagues on this committee have been extremely good to this paper and this editor. And, their goals are ones we should all take up. I am truly sorry this mistake happened.

And, while I can't promise that you'll agree with everything that appears in the Drum in the future, I can tell the committee that I give my word that every effort will be expended to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

While mistakes do happen, this one should not have.

Apologies also to Janel McKee, one of my favorite kids in the village. I spelled her name wrong last week.

And, special thanks to Fort Providence's Hubert Gardipy who snapped some important photos for the Drum Saturday night when I couldn't get to an event. Thanks for coming through.