Taking it to the streets
Qikiqtarjuaq kids march for healthy lives

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 19/99) - Since RCMP Cpl. Grant MacDonald and the DARE (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) program moved to Qikiqtarjuaq last summer, at least two children have stopped smoking.

Both Dennis Nauyavik, 12, and Rennie Kooneeliusie, 11, said that since attending MacDonald's weekly classes at Inuksuit school, they've stopping smoking and have healthier lives.

To celebrate such success, and also to spread the word and foster greater public awareness about the program, MacDonald organized a march through town to coincide with National DARE Awareness Day on April 9.

"I had the kids make up posters to promote the program and carry them around. We did a walk from the school around town and some of the kids held a DARE banner," said MacDonald.

Nauyavik said it made him happy to march around the hamlet with a sign that promoted a drug, alcohol and tobacco free lifestyle.

"It felt good. I was proud," said Nauyavik.

He hoped the walk would make people realize the negative impact their bad habits had on other community residents.

"It's not good for you. I don't want to use (drugs and alcohol). It feels bad because they're not healthy."

Kooneeliusie said it also made him feel bad, but he thought that fewer kids were smoking cigarettes because of the program.

"It's maybe less now," said Kooneeliusie.

And while the parade generated a lot of excitement among the children out walking on such a sunny day, it created more of a stir among the adult population after it wrapped up.

"People were inquiring what the program is all about. It's so new up here," said MacDonald.

While DARE has existed in the United States since 1983 and in southern Canada since 1990, it moved into the central Baffin community only after MacDonald received a transfer here last year.

Once settled, he got the DARE ball rolling and has since gained the support of the teachers, the mayor and the hamlet council and the drug and alcohol workers.

"That's pretty important for a community this size, especially when you're dealing with the children who are the future," said MacDonald.

Involving kids in grades 6 through 9, MacDonald said he goes into the classrooms on a weekly basis and through activities like role-playing and book-work, delivers lessons that teach kids how to say no to the offer of intoxicants and how to maintain healthy lives.

"To date, I'm very proud of the work they've done. They're more educated in understanding the consequences that result from the use of alcohol and drugs and tobacco."

Margaret Joyce, principal of Inuksuit school, said the DARE Program motivated her students to learn more about drug abuse and it brought the topic out into the open among other community members as well -- something that she considered particularly important due to the amount of sniffing and other types of solvent and substance abuse that takes place in the community.

"There's more of a willingness to talk about issues. At a very early age, kids get into drugs or see it around them. This program is well set up."