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Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Time to mend fences

It's clear that when the city hired Reid Douglas as our new fire chief, the aim was to bring leadership and credibility to a fire department lacking both.

Douglas' resume reads like a checklist against all the problems with fire hall leadership identified by the NWT Workers Compensation Board.

The WCB handed down 12 safety orders earlier this year in response to the deaths of two firefighters in a shed fire in 2005.

Douglas' last job was as an instructor for the Justice Institute of British Columbia, which provides training for various provincial public safety divisions.

He is also a career firefighter with several years in management positions at fire departments in Winnipeg and North Vancouver.

The WCB had demanded former Yellowknife fire chief Mick Beauchamp and his deputy fire chief Darcy Hernblad undergo re-certification and ordered an overhaul of the department's training and safety procedures.

Beauchamp has since retired and Hernblad, after a stint as acting chief, is back in his role as deputy fire chief - albeit under the condition he complete a competency evaluation.

Last week, Douglas, who has been on the job for about three weeks, defended his deputy, saying he is "100 per cent behind him," and that the media has given Hernblad a "raw deal."

His support for Hernblad shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. A leader defends his troops.

At the same time, Douglas must acknowledge there is considerable mending to do in his department.

Last winter, former fire chief Beauchamp threatened to sue firefighters for writing a letter to the WCB, the NWT fire marshal and City Hall about safety issues.

And only three weeks ago, the union representing Yellowknife firefighters were demanding that Hernblad undergo his competency evaluation now rather than wait until the nine-month grace period granted him runs out.

Union president Craig Halifax says firefighters are afraid to work under his command until he does.

Raw deal or not, Hernblad is under the microscope because he was the senior commander who ordered four firefighters onto the roof of a burning shed at the Home Building Centre, March 17, 2005.

The roof collapsed on top of Lt. Cyril Fyfe and Kevin Olson, who were inside, killing them.

The subsequent fall-out has been undoubtedly stressful for Hernblad and his family.

It is something he will have to live with for the rest of his life.

As sad as that is, it's all the more reason why Douglas must make Hernblad's competency exam and restoring firefighter morale his top priorities.

Coach suspension handled poorly

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

We give full marks to Hockey Nunavut president Dale Smith and his new board members for acting quickly at their September annual general meeting in suspending a Gjoa Haven coach for two years.

However, it was ridiculous for Hockey Nunavut to have taken seven months to deal with the situation, and now it's going to drag on even longer with word the coach is appealing the suspension. In his appeal, the coach said he was smoking a cigarette.

Rankin Inlet Minor Hockey Association president Justin Merritt says he notified Sport Nunavut at the same time he notified Hockey Nunavut of the incident - three days after the volunteer coach and chaperon was walked in on while reportedly smoking marijuana in a Rankin Inlet school.

The fact Sport Nunavut was notified does not change the fact Hockey Nunavut was far too slow in addressing the matter.

That being said, we would like to hear why the department overseeing sports in our territory felt no need to question Hockey Nunavut's inaction regarding the matter.

It would almost lead one to assume Sport Nunavut has no problem with a person getting high while being entrusted with the care of a group of young athletes, even though we know that's not the case.

We had another incident arise from Nunavut's hockey championships this past year, when a lack of clear communication led to coaches trying to bend the rules to strengthen their team for the Arctic Winter Games.

This time around, Hockey Nunavut, Sport Nunavut and the coaching staff of Team Nunavut's entry at the Atlantic-Hockey North Junior 'C' championship in Nova Scotia looked the other way while the same coach travelled to the tournament as a player. There's no doubt a legal point can be made that, at the time of the junior tournament, no official suspension had been issued by Hockey Nunavut.

But, while that is a legitimate argument in a court of law, in the world of right and wrong it is a lame excuse.

How many reading this would allow your children to continue travelling to sporting events if you thought, for one second, any of the people entrusted with their care were getting high on drugs?

There is no way this person should have been selected to the junior team with the coaching staff, Hockey Nunavut and Sport Nunavut all aware of what happened.

What message does that send to the other players on the junior team?

Why even bother having rules and codes of conduct to begin with?

Every team wants to be competitive when it travels to big tournaments.

But, putting the team above the rules of the sport and the conduct of those involved with it has got to stop.

Hopefully, the new Hockey Nunavut board will continue to deal with all disciplinary matters in an expedient manner.

And, hopefully, Sport Nunavut will make a point of following up on any case it's aware of that is not being acted upon in a timely fashion.

Finally, while it's tough to feel sorry for anyone who is believed to have made such a dopey decision, taking six months to hand out a suspension is also unfair to the coach involved.

All in all, the situation was handled poorly and we can only hope the parties involved get it right the next time around.

How many will be hurt?

Editorial Comment
Dez Loreen
Inuvik Drum

An accident last weekend left two youth in stitches and one in a hospital bed in Edmonton.

Their pain was completely avoidable.

After attending a party at Airport Lake, the young people jumped into a truck for the drive back into town.

The party was held at one of two gravel pits near the lake. There, the young party-goers lit a bonfire to provide heat and light for their night-time revelry.

On the way back from the party, the truck lost traction and flipped off the road into the bush. Two of the three passengers were tossed from the wreck, while the driver was dumped into the back seat.

After seeing the truck and hearing eyewitness reports, it seems fortunate that the youth were not killed. The front of the cab is totally crushed.

I talked to both of the guys who had to drag their friends out of the ditch after the crash. They were also driving back into town.

It doesn't seem fair to put your friends through the pain of seeing you that vulnerable, laying in the dirt unconscious.

I have never seen any of my friends in that position and I pray I never will.

I almost feel obliged to describe the three people in the vehicle as "victims." But, the only victims were the friends and parents, who had to stand in the sterile hospital room crying.

Now, a week after the fact, one of the youth is still in hospital in Edmonton. From what I've heard, he has feeling is his legs, which seemed unlikely from early doctor reports here in town.

Coming out of this incident, I wonder why the pit where the party was held has not been fenced off from the public, like the other one in the same quarry has been.

Personally, I think both areas should be off limits to the public, to discourage the late night party visits.

The remote location is nearly 10 kilometres from town and is really only accessible by vehicle.

This causes problems with the groups of people who do not designate a sober driver.

Drinking outside in cold weather is not something that is desired, but has become common practice. Parents won't let their kids drink in their home, so the youth seek other venues.

Deputy fire Chief Julie Miller said it best to me last week. If the youth are so charged up to drink, this town is surrounded by brush and thick bush. There is no need to drive to any location far from town.

Only a year after an accident that left one teen a paraplegic following a party, we have to ask ourselves how many more children will be in wheelchairs before this is stopped.

Groups in town are working to bring the wrecked truck into the high school to fully illustrate the impacts of drinking and driving.

Redeeming parts of humanity

Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum

Some of the stories I most enjoy being able to report about in the paper are the ones in which community members do positive things.

People often complain that all they ever see in the news these days, whether on television, radio or in newspapers, is doom and gloom. Levels of violence are up, the environment is being destroyed, innocent people are being shot when they least expect it. It's enough to make you want to crawl back under the covers in your bed and not come out.

That's why it's such a pleasure to see regular people go out of their way to do things that will help others.

A number of these types of stories popped up in the Deh Cho during September and October. Most of the stories were related to cancer.

While cancer is a devastating disease it's often such trials or times of trouble that can bring people together.

On Sept. 17, a number of communities in the Deh Cho held Terry Fox runs to raise money for cancer research. Not everyone can be as effective as Terry Fox who ran 5,373 km or 3,339 miles in 143 days but every little bit helps.

The money raised in the communities will join the approximately $400 million that has been raised worldwide to date during Terry Fox Runs.

Money to combat cancer was also raised in a different way in Fort Providence in late September.

Deh Gah school teacher Sherri Thomson and Const. J.M. Suave shaved their hair off to raise money for CIBC's second annual Run for Our Lives event that collects money for breast cancer research, support, services and equipment in the Northwest Territories.

With the help of senior high students Murina Sabourin, Destiny Thom, Audrey Landry and Shawna McLeod, $850 was raised.

While short hair was being shed in Fort Providence, long hair was saved this month in Fort Simpson.

Laurent Isiah had his distinctive 16-inch ponytail lopped off and opted for a half-inch buzz cut. Isiah was excited to discover he could donate his hair to help those who have lost theirs during treatments for cancer. Isiah's ponytail will be sent down to Calgary where it will be made into a wig for a cancer patient.

While donating hair for wigs has been done before and is nothing new, it's not every day that the donor is a 12-year-old boy in junior high.

A number of conclusions can be drawn from these examples.

First, in a territory where cancer was the leading cause of death from 2000 to 2002, according to the Department of Health and Social Services, all of these good deeds show that people care about what happens to their fellow community members.

Secondly, some youth are also willing to lend a hand to help others, even people they don't know and might never meet. In a society where the state of today's youth is often bemoaned, it's nice to know that some things are still going right.

Lastly, individuals can make a big difference when they feel strongly about a cause. That is something to remember when things seem bleak.


In the Oct. 30 edition of News/North it was incorrectly reported that Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya spent $2,000 on wooden pens. In fact, the pens cost $200. Incorrect information appeared in the Oct. 12 issue of News/North. In a news brief about Aklavik's upcoming recreation committee and councillor elections ("Interested in running?" p.3) the nomination deadline was incorrectly published as Oct. 23. The date is actually Nov. 6. Also, the name of Steve Daniel, the NWT's co-ordinator for math, science and secondary education was misspelled. News/North apologizes for any embarrassment or inconvenience caused by these errors.