A young man was recently being sentenced after being caught bootlegging mickeys of vodka in Ndilo.
The judge made a good point — by having a couple of cases of Smirnoff ready for sale, the guy was preying on alcoholics who were either too desperate for booze that they needed to find some overnight, or perhaps making it available to minors.
It didn’t come out in court how much the mickeys were going for. The young man was doing it to supplement his modest wages, which he was using to help support his live-in father.
While I was ringing bells over the holidays for the Salvation Army, two of my locations were in the city’s privately run liquor stores.
It was plain to see when people were coming in to load up for resale. They would fill up cartons or backpacks with mickeys of vodka. I mean, what else would someone need 10 mickeys for?
The stores also seem to be prepared for this best-seller, as they stock the much-asked-for product fully under the cash registers (also, less likely to be shoplifted, I suppose).
Also fully stocked under the counter at the checkout is Private Stock. You see those empties scattered throughout the back lanes of downtown Yellowknife.
Now you can’t really fault the private outlets, as they are in business to make money and are following the laws. I regularly saw the staff refuse service to people who were drunk.
And in the downtown store, they also had to act as bouncers, with inebriated people walking in off the street causing trouble.
But perhaps the owner could do a bit of public service and put a daily purchase limit on mickeys — especially since he’s now enjoying a new revenue stream with legal cannabis.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the city’s courthouse lately, volunteering my time providing stories to community-driven Cabin Radio.
Having the chance to rekindle my old reporting skills after a couple of decades behind a desk as an editor is invigorating.
I worked a couple of years as a crime and court reporter for the Winnipeg Sun and really have a respect for how the legal system needs to have fair an accurate coverage. It’s one of the tougher beats to do properly.
That aside, so many of the stories I’m hearing every day are truly heart-breaking. And the great majority of people’s lives have been ruined by alcohol and drugs.
And these are people from teens to seniors. It’s just so sad.
But you have to keep in mind that it’s not only the people standing before a judge who are the victims of the dark side of booze and illegal drugs (both illicit and prescription). They are in court because they have impacted the lives of others.
There is no easy answer for any of this. But the more we can get the warnings to kids, the better.
But for so many of the criminals in court, they have grown up in situations of alcoholism, drug-abuse and endless house parties by their supposed care givers.
Many say they started to drink before they were teenagers.
So very sad.
The November killing of City Cab driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali is still on my mind, ever since I covered the unprecedented taxicab procession through downtown Yellowknife.
The cab driver — known as “Uncle Ahmed” to his co-workers — was found near death in his cab outside Stanton Territorial Hospital in the early morning of Nov. 19.
A father and son — Elias Schiller, 18, and James Schiller, 49 — are charged with murder and before the courts. I’ll be following the cases on behalf of Cabin Radio, so I’ll be able to get a detailed account of what happened on that morning in the cab.
I’ve seen the younger Schiller already during a brief appearance. He sat with his head down in the prisoner’s box as a number of his apparent friends talked quietly amongst themselves in the public gallery.
The crowd in the gallery for a brief appearance via video of the elder Schiller was decidedly different — there were several cabbies watching the proceedings quietly.
The charges against both accused need to be tested in court and are to be considered innocent unless proven guilty.
Ali’s death has rekindled debate in the city over the safety of cab drivers. The taxis are equipped with various safety measures, but City Cab general manager Shirley McGrath told me last month the industry is both pressing government for changes and implementing its own measures.
City Cab — the largest of two companies in the capital, the other being Aurora Taxi — is buying panic alarm buttons to emit a loud sound from the cab, while its communications software is being upgraded on the tablets used by drivers.
Those measures are good for reacting to confrontations with fares, but the only true defensive measure — those full plastic shields, as seen in many other jurisdictions — aren’t being considered. That is mostly due to the cost of the devices.
Sadly, it will likely take another tragedy to finally spur the cabbie industry to install the shields.
This town has some decidedly rough edges and taxis drivers find themselves in dicey situations in the alcohol-fuelled situations. Combine that with some language barriers on either or both sides and it’s easy to see how tempers can flare.
A lot of people are taking cabs because they have lost the right to drive. So they aren’t happy about the situation to begin with.
And the cabbies already face much tougher driving conditions than there counterparts in the south. Winter driving in the mostly small cars they have is tough.
And the cars they have are not in great shape, although they all passed recent GNWT inspections.
Now I’ve had a good mix of cab drivers, mostly for trips to and from the airport. Some have been polite, friendly and helpful with luggage.
Others have been less amicable, the cabs smelly, dirty and with evidence of previous passengers on the seats or floors. Some also are pretty rude when it comes to turning on the debit machines.
It almost seemed as if they just wanted cash for the ride.
In any event, everyone deserves a safe workplace. The GNWT has implemented some of the strictest workplace safety laws in the country. How those apply to the taxi industry are unclear, if they do at all for the drivers.
But in any event, there is no reason for a dispute over anything to end in violence.