Gwich'in get good news
Ottawa announces crime-prevention funding

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Oct 01/99) - MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew announced Friday that Ottawa is awarding more than $600,000 to the Gwich'in Tribal Council in support of its Culture-Based Crime Prevention Project.

Speaking at the Chief Jim Koe Building in Inuvik on Friday afternoon, the Western Arctic MP said the $635,930 is being awarded under the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention and on behalf of the federal Justice Department and Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay.

"The Gwich'in Outdoor Classroom Project is a thoughtful, tailored and flexible initiative that demonstrates that government and communities can successfully work together to address difficult issues," she said.

Seated beside Blondin-Andrew, and looking pleased, was council president Richard Nerysoo. He said the idea for the project arose late last year during a conversation between himself and Jennifer Chalmers -- the author of the proposal that was accepted by Ottawa and which Blondin-Andrew described as an "experimental, pioneering initiative."

"It's necessary that we understand the importance of working relationships and of integration within our communities," said Nerysoo.

The three-year "culture-based, crime prevention project" is intended to cover the communities of Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic and target children between 6 and 12 years of age -- with the purpose of preventing them from turning to crime.

"The focus of the proposed program is to address prevention efforts with the youth that are in the pre-offender stage and/or in the cycle of crime," Chalmers' proposal reads. "The intended outcome is to allow children to develop with confidence, education (traditional and academic) and respect for their surroundings."

The council described the project as innovative in its community-approach and in its combination of crime prevention strategies with traditional teachings in the Outdoor Classroom -- to be held at the Tl'oondih Lodge, south of McPherson.

"The people want to receive their healing from the land, because that's where we come from," said Tsiigehtchic Chief Grace Blake.

Blondin-Andrew said Ottawa would eventually carry out a project evaluation -- so that similar programs might be implemented in other regions across the country.

"Because if we just do this for the Gwich'in, it's not good enough-- these problems are much bigger than just this area," she said, adding, "No community can afford the costs of violence -- a healthier, safer community benefits each of us."