Saturday, August 23, 2008

Youth vandalism cancels Behchoko summer festival

A popular summer festival in Behchoko, N.W.T., has been cancelled this week due to an ongoing rash of youth vandalism in the community, local officials say.

The annual Happy Days Festival was supposed to start Friday night and run all weekend. The festival normally includes a Saturday night dance, a softball tournament, children's sporting events and other activities.

But Craig Yeo, a spokesman for the Behchoko community government, told CBC News that local officials decided earlier on Friday to cancel the festival.

"The community government is worried that if things are put up to support the event — equipment and things — that it won't be there in the morning when they go back," Yeo said. Yeo said a vehicle was set ablaze in Behchoko on Tuesday morning, and about a dozen young people broke into the local Northern Store on Wednesday. Seven were arrested Thursday night, in an alleged attempt to break into the community's cultural centre.

The problem of vandalism and violence among young people has escalated to the point where a community watch group has started patrolling Behchoko's streets between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. every night.

The volunteers' nightly patrols made for another reason the Happy Days Festival was cancelled — Yeo said there was a lack of volunteers available to help stage it.

Group lobbies for proper youth centre

Many residents in the community of 1,900 have blamed the problem on a lack of proper facilities for young people.

A former youth centre is housed in a building that currently does not meet safety codes, while construction continues on a big, new sportsplex.

Appearing at a community government meeting Wednesday, a group of youth representatives said they need a place where young people can feel comfortable being in.

"It's all controlled by the youth. It's better," said Marvin Apples, 20, who was at the meeting.

"Some youth can't talk to people. But if you have, like, a close best friend, like us, we do everything according to our rules. You know our youth, we follow the rules. That's why we wanted to have our own facility."

The young people have been offered space at the local friendship centre, but the group said not all young people would feel comfortable going there.

Apples said his group is looking at possibly leasing some land to build their own centre. Resident Jane Weyallon, who showed her support for the youth at the meeting, said the group has already demonstrated that it can look after its own facility.

"They've been paying for electricity and the fuel through doing bake sales and doing a cookout, a community cook out," she said.

"The community, they hire them. And then that money that they make goes back to maintaining the building."

Wednesday's community government meeting started at 6 p.m. and lasted all night. The meeting, and the youth discussion, is expected to resume on Monday.

Thanks to Kara for sending us an email tonight with this link from today's CBC news. For those of you who don't know, this is where we were first transferred when we moved to NWT. Behchoko was our home for 9 months, and it was not nearly as bad then as it appears to be now. When we left last April, vandalism was on the rise. But for the community to cancel this festival really shows how bad it is getting. I must admit, I'm glad we are not there now.


Megan said...

I really wish I could blog about this.

I wrote more than that, but erased it. I hope others comment.

Way Way Up said...

MISSING - 2 responsible parents
MISSING - a productive way to spend time (hint to youth - take up a hobby, start a club, don't wait for someone else to do it for you).
MISSING - town leadership - don't let a bunch of punks dictate whether an annual event should be run or not
DEFINITELY MISSING - a Victim's Justice Act NOT a Youth Justice Act

ohn said...

How sad.

Rob, Tina and the boys said...

Megan - email me with what you wanted to say. Now I'm curious. :)

Anonymous said...

I think the parents of those youths are to blame. I was raised by parents who set realistic rules in our home and I respected them. I was raised with some fear of my father, but it never ever came to the point he had to discipline me. I agree the government need to appropriately punish youth and set a few examples, but ultimately, if parents have things under control then the government would never have to be involved.