Beaver Creek constable teaches leadership to youth

Unfortunately, Const. George Cook doesn’t play floor hockey. He’s the new sheriff in the town of Beaver Creek, and one of only two RCMP…

Unfortunately, Const. George Cook doesn’t play floor hockey.

He’s the new sheriff in the town of Beaver Creek, and one of only two RCMP officers who police the community of about 80 people in southwest Yukon.

Cook’s partner, Cpl. Mark London, has a regular floor hockey game going with the Beaver Creek youth — roughly 14 kids, mostly First Nations, who also attend the Nelnah Bessie John School together.

But stickhandling is not Cook’s forte, so he found something else to do with the kids.

“I’m not much of a hockey player,” Cook said in a recent interview.

“I was trying to think of something I could do with the kids, and I enjoy hiking and backpacking and canoeing,” he said.

“When I was growing up, there were different programs that would take young kids out to experience those activities.

“So I thought I’d start a program that would give the youth here a chance to do the same thing.”

Cook received $2,000 from the national Mounted Police Foundation and asked the White River First Nation for an equal donation.

The Beaver Creek Outdoor Recreation and Leadership Program was born.

Once a month, starting when school lets out in May, Cook hopes to lead an expedition into the wilds of southwest Yukon.

The money will go to camping gear, food and passes if the group decides it wants to go to Kluane National Park.

“Basically the idea is to keep them occupied, to give them something to do so they’re not getting into trouble,” said Cook.

“They’re not bad kids here. We don’t want to see the youth here start drinking and start going downhill.

“So rather than wait until it becomes a problem and then react to it, we’re trying to give them opportunities to do other things, so that they don’t even start.”

The RCMP have taken some proactive measures against teen drinking in the past, said Cook.

There weren’t any complaints about teen drinking in 2005, he said.

“That doesn’t mean that they aren’t drinking, but there were no complaints about them drinking.”

Cook hasn’t yet asked the kids he hopes to lead what they think of the idea.

But Erin Davies, the principal at Nelnah Bessie John School, is all for it.

“Any outdoor opportunities for the kids would probably be good,” said Davies.

“It doesn’t hurt for them to get involved with the RCMP when they’re younger, in a more positive way.

“People want time in the summer to be with their friends and their families. But it’s good to have organized activities.”

The Beaver Creek youth have plenty of opportunities, because there aren’t very many of them and they get a lot of attention, she said.

There are fewer than 15 youngsters at Nelnah Bessie taking kindergarten through Grade 9.

The classes are split between two full-time teachers.

About 80 per cent of the students are First Nations, from all over the Yukon, said Davies, who has taught at Nelnah Bessie for three years.

Some of the students move to Whitehorse to attend high school, while others go to Alaska, depending on their parents’ desires, she said.

“The kids that we have here right now are pretty healthy, in terms of their relationship with drugs and alcohol,” said Davies.

“They don’t have any problems. None of the kids that we have here right now, not even the older kids, have any real issues in dealing with substances.

“None of them have been in any serious trouble with the law at all. They’re pretty positive and supportive.”

The school organizes a summer youth program that is “business-centered,” said Davies.

White River organizes “cultural camps” in the spring and fall, she added.

The school owns snowshoes for the kids to use in the wintertime.

But there isn’t a leadership program in the winter, and there’s no community camping gear for summer overnight trips.

“I’m going to see if (Davies) is interested in having the kids come up with a logo and decide when they would want to do the trips and which trips they’d like to focus on,” said Cook.

“If none of the students want to do canoeing and they all want to do backpacking, obviously we’re not going to make them go canoeing.

“We’re going to focus most of the activities in the summer when school’s not in.

“We wouldn’t do any overnight trips in the wintertime. And that’s the intention, to get them out for actual camping trips.”

Four thousand dollars will buy a lot of camp meals and park passes.

But Cook is hoping to expand the program in the future.

“We’ve contacted an outdoor retailer to see if they’re willing to donate anything,” he said.

“I’m still waiting to hear about that.”