Pubdate: Mon, 29 Oct 2007
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2007 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Elise Stolte, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


HAY RIVER, N.W.T. -- RCMP Cpl. Eric Irani always keeps an eye out for
the extras when he pulls over a car speeding towards the Northwest

In one five-day stretch in June, a team of officers from Alberta, B.C.
and the Northwest Territories found 1.25 kilograms of powder cocaine,
as well as magic mushrooms, marijuana and crack cocaine heading north.
They also found a loaded 9-mm handgun and a bundle containing $20,000

"The Northwest Territories is booming right now. It's kind of an
untapped market for drug traffickers," said Irani, who heads the unit
that patrols Alberta's highways.

"A lot is slipping through. It's getting into our communities, harming
our families and our kids. That's what's scary."

The community most on Irani's mind is his hometown of Hay River,
N.W.T., where his colleague, Const. Christopher Worden, was shot to
death Oct. 6.

The small shipping and transportation hub instantly became notorious,
and town residents -- who all know the rundown, government-subsidized
house across the street from where Worden lay that morning -- point
their fingers straight at the drug traffickers.

"Ten years ago most of the drugs were brought up by locals," said
Robert Halifax, Irani's stepfather and retired chief judge of the
Northwest Territories.

"Now you're finding a lot more of the southern guys coming in. That
puts a different perspective on it and it brings a lot more violence.
And the reality is, they're better armed."

Halifax moved north as a lawyer in 1972, retired in 2003 and now lives
in a home he built on the edge of town overlooking the Hay River.

He saw the first wave of marijuana related charges come through court
in 1970s. Cocaine became popular among young professionals 15 years
ago, and crack -- "the poor man's cocaine" -- followed about five
years later, Halifax said.

Now, "there's just about every kid in town has tried something here.
Kids tell me it's easier to get drugs than alcohol," he said.

The situation is much the same in nearby Fort Smith as well as in

"It's time the public didn't put its head in the sand and play ostrich
any more," Halifax said.

In 2006, Statistics Canada listed the rate of violent crime as almost
seven times higher in the Northwest Territories than the rest of
Canada. The rate of drug offences was 2.6 times higher.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake