Rollie Comeau is a big man with a deep voice and a totally bald head.
He could easily fit the stereotype of the Hollywood bad guy were it not for the aura of approachability and good humour surrounding him.
After two years as acting principal at the Watson Lake Secondary School, he confesses himself happy to be returning to the classroom this fall, where he is said to be an inspiring and popular teacher.
Comeau was born in Bathurst, New Brunswick. Graduating from University of Moncton, he taught in Alberta for two years before fulfilling a long time desire to explore the North.
He’s lived in Watson Lake for 13 years.
He was interviewed in his home; clad in Carhartt overalls and wearing a baseball cap, Comeau looks like someone who is comfortable with himself and his environment without being complacent. He, like many other residents, is deeply appreciative of the lifestyle he enjoys in Watson Lake while at the same time being concerned for those who are not doing as well.
Q: What do you like best about living here?
A: I love the accessibility to the outdoors. It is literally right outside our door. And it is good not to be choking on pollution.
Q: What do you like the least?
A: There is too much vandalism, too much thievery.
Q: Will you retire here?
A: Yes; we’re invested in this community.
Q: Does Watson Lake have an image problem?
A: Yes, it is seen as the lowest of the low insofar as other communities are concerned, and particularly by Whitehorse. We are seen as having the most of all the bad stuff: substance abuse, lawlessness, etc. We are seen as having little civic pride.
Q: Are we a racist community?
A: There are racial tensions.
Q: How do global concerns relate to you and your community?
A: The increasing cost of living is a huge concern; being so far north, we feel it more.
Q: What would you like to see happen in Watson Lake?
A: I would like to see us take more pride in what we have. For all our problems, we are still better off than most people in the world and we should be grateful for that.
Q: How do you think you are seen by your community?
A: I think they see me as someone who they can talk to, someone approachable.
Q: Your friends?
A: My friends would say I am funny, and easy going.
Q: Your family?
A: My family is proud of me. I’m the only one who has left New Brunswick, and they’re pleased with what I’ve accomplished for myself.
Q: What is your best quality?
A: A sense of humour.
Q: What is your worst?
Q: What natural gift would you like to possess?
A: I wish I was more of a natural handyman; I’d like to be able to tinker with vehicle engines, do my own wiring and plumbing, build things.
Q: What is your present state of mind?
A: We’ve had a few break-ins to our home and the adjacent shop; it’s making me feel insecure, which is not a good feeling.
Q: What quality do you most admire in a woman?
Q: In a man?
Q: What makes you angry?
Q: What do you do with your anger?
A: Kick something around. Something inanimate, of course, and hopefully not valuable. I need to physically vent.
Q: What makes you happy?
A: I’m happy when those around me are happy and positive. I’m happy on the trapline; I love the lifestyle.
Q: What do you do for fun, for pleasure?
A: I like to work in my shop, trying to learn to be handy.
Q: Where are you spiritually?
A: I believe in a Creator. I was raised Roman Catholic, but I’m not a believer in organized religion any more, especially after seeing the results of religious efforts with the First Nations people – the residential schools.
Q: What fears do you have?
A: These days, because of the break ins, I feel like a hostage in my house. My wife and I don’t feel we can go anywhere and leave our place unattended. I fear another episode of invasion to our home.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: I’ve published a book, in French; Fourteen First Nations of the Yukon.
Q: What do you think most people do NOT know about you?
A: I used to draw caricatures. I painted a 16’ x 10’ mural for the men’s dorm at the Universite de Moncton and it is still there.