Editorial page
Friday, April 17, 1998

No vote a new beginning

Only one force could bring out the high number of voters on Wednesday -- an angry public ignored too long by city councils. It was a clear message that our present council must start listening and there are encouraging signs that several alderman take the public's view seriously.

Council was elected to represent us, not carry out administration's wishes. That's the old way that brought us the dairy scandal, unnecessary and expensive legal actions against Yellowknifers, a white-elephant Niven Lake subdivision, secret meetings and an arena proposal that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars before council even asked for approval to borrow.

Mayor Dave Lovell, with his characteristic misreading of the electorate, thinks the voters said no to the arena. Instead, they reacted to high taxes, low property values and the loose spending habits of city hall.

A majority of Yellowknifers understand the need for a new arena, they feel they cannot afford it.

Could not our mayor take a leadership role and help Yellowknifers achieve a goal they feel is out of their reach?

In January of 1997, Mayor Lovell stood tall in the new Baker Community Centre and declared his enormous pride in being part of a city that had come together to raise the necessary funds.

Why not put a money thermometer downtown and start the bingos, auctions, raffles and canvassing, just as they did for the Baker Centre? The Minor Hockey Association and Great Slave Speed Skaters have already committed $100,000.

While raising the funds to add to what the city has already set aside, let's discuss partnerships with the private sector and even alternative sites, perhaps ones that serve more than just the sports community.

Wednesday's no vote does not have to be the end of the twin-pad arena. It can be the beginning of a community working together and the building of a facility in which all Yellowknifers can take pride.

Road worthy

It is often noted that the Inuit use an extraordinary number of terms to describe snow because of their cultural affinity for the land they live in.

By the same measure, Yellowknifers should have a number of words to describe roads. In this town we have gravel roads, paved roads, winter roads and ice roads.

There are roads that go places and those that don't, such as the Ingraham Trail.

In the spring, Yellowknifers are treated to a full complement of different roads. There are roads that were once passable, now collapsed by frost, roads once high and dry, now under six inches of water and our perennial favorite, the paved road, now ankle-deep in gravel and generating more dust than an Old Testament plague.

As with most things in life, around here just getting there is half the fun.

Not laughing

One of Canada's biggest breweries got a lesson in southern assumptions about the North recently.

Kelly Greening, a resident iron-pumper, was outraged when Molson Breweries let loose a glib series of coasters depicting a female bodybuilder from Yellowknife with the slogan, "Your date turns out to be a bodybuilder from Yellowknife. What do you do?"

Not say something stupid would be our advice.

Greening, who can bench press 101 kilograms, felt the campaign was "negative towards strong women." Not to mention Yellowknife.

The brewery, noting the woman gracing the coaster was "a nice looking, muscular bodybuilder," apologized. The lesson? Trifle with Northern women at your peril.-30-

Editorial Comment
Give your brains a break
Ian Elliot
Inuvik Drum

There are two items in today's Inuvik Drum that could have been obituaries had it not been for sheer luck and nothing else. A pair of snowmobile accidents occurred, in which police say the common threads in both were alcohol and riders not wearing helmets.

Without getting into the specifics of either case as both are before the courts, driving a snowmachine while drunk is inexcusable; riding in town without a helmet is stupid.

I ride a mountain bike and am a big fan of helmets after two people with whom I used to ride suffered catastrophic head injuries while riding bare-headed. One was nailed from behind by a car with extra-long trailer mirrors and another went over the bars on a deceptively easy stretch of trail. The first was killed; the second will never be the same. And this happened on bicycles both going around 20 km/h in the country, not snowmobiles being driven at several times the speed limit within town guided by the belief that there is nothing around the next corner that will get in the way.

As an aside, you don't have to explain the helmet thing to those who ride genuinely fast or take risks on their machines -- you'll never see a bare-headed bike racer or bike courier, or an experienced trail rider who may keep a split-open old helmet in the garage as a reminder. They need no lessons about wearing them and if they want to feel the wind in their hair, they'll go for a jog.

Some people just don't get the message, though. A short drive down to last weekend's Muskrat Jamoboree on the river was memorable if only for the number of kids under the age of 16 buzzing around on their snowmobiles, often with two or three friends on the back, with automobile drivers getting plenty of time to notice their lack of helmets because the drivers were looking straight ahead as they zipped across public roads cutting off traffic. Of course, drivers may have been too busy standing on the brakes or swerving to avoid the snowmachines to really take in many of the details.

It's one thing to buzz around in the bush or the tundra without a helmet and another thing to take to a public road -- or across one -- without even a basic level of head protection. No one ever got creamed by a truck that came out of nowhere on the barrenlands or ran into a delivery truck making an unsignalled left-hand turn in the mountains.

Basic snowmobile safety appears to have been forgotten, and it is only a matter of time before someone loses a child, a sister or a husband in an accident that will have been entirely preventable and completely regrettable. Drinking and snowmachines do not mix and is a danger to absolutely everyone; riding helmetless within town, where there are so many things that can pluck a person off a machine belongs in the same category of stupid things to do.

Editorial Comment
When dreams come true
Arthur Milnes
Deh Cho Drum

The space shuttle Columbia. NASA. A Canadian in space. Being right there to take it all in.

Now, can you tell me a student who won't be inspired their whole life after such an experience?

Well, thanks to the vision, hard work and dedication of two members of that much too criticized profession -- teaching -- a group of Deh Cho students will be having the experience of a lifetime today.

The space shuttle Columbia is set to launch into orbit today carrying Canadian astronaut Dr. Dave Williams. And, Dr. Williams will be carrying a Deh G'ah elementary and secondary school pin in his personal gear with him as he goes to a place where few of us have gone before.

As the shuttle goes up, the eyes of a group from the school will be following the shuttle into the heavens from their perch on a Florida beach.

And, as they stand there watching the brilliance of a shuttle launch, they should quietly take a bow and be extremely proud of themselves.

Led by teachers Barb Killbery and Barb Leuze, this group from Deh G'ah has worked all year on getting to Florida for their dream trip. What makes their accomplishment even more special is they did it almost entirely on their own -- bake sale to bake sale and raffle ticket to raffle ticket.

Starting last fall, the group met each Thursday at lunch to plan the next week's fundraising schedule. There were auctions, raffles, a space carnival and other events too numerous to mention.

Through all this hard work they met their goal, raising upwards of $40,000, most of it from their own resources, not from government.

They also read up on Dr. Williams and the space program and learned along the way. The kids even supplied the questions when the astronaut agreed to do a phone interview with the xxxDrum.

And, it is hoped that he'll be travelling all the way to Fort Providence to meet with his new student friends once the flight is over.

This is education.

For me at the Drum, this has been one of those stories to follow that makes me truly happy I became a reporter. They have been quite a group to follow.

Maybe the readers out there can help. Perhaps there is a NWT teaching award that the work of these teachers and students could be recognized with.

My colleagues at News/North used a phrase in the last edition to describe this shuttle trip that I'm going to have to steal from them.

Florida Crew '98 truly has the right stuff.