Pilot program sets Behchokǫ̀ Elders up with cellphones for emergencies

(File photo/CKLB)

Some Elders in Behchokǫ̀ have received cellphones from the RCMP in case of emergencies, but many details on the program are unclear.

About a month ago while visiting her 85-year-old mother Dorothy Liske found her holding a flip phone.

Liske says her mother explained the RCMP had given phones to her and other Elders in the community.

Liske’s mother only speaks Tłı̨chǫ and had never previously been taught to use a cellphone.

“It kind of concerned me because most RCMP in the community are all English speaking only, and how would they be able to know that it’s my mother calling and she’s in a state of emergency and how would they get to her?” Liske said.

But her mother explained she had been taught how to use the phone and to always charge it overnight. The cellphone had been specifically programmed so all she has to do is open the phone, press a specific number and then state her name into the phone — police would know where to go from there.

Liske says now that she knows her mother has been trained to use the phone, she feels more comfortable.

“In case of any emergency, we know that she’s got access to some device where she can get hold of somebody, this is a great relief for all of us,” she says.

Based on what she’s heard, Liske says the family will likely have to pay for the phone minutes, but this was not confirmed by the RCMP.

When CKLB reached out to the RCMP for details on the program, it took a month to receive a response.

“Behchokǫ̀ RCMP are part of a very small pilot that is testing out a potential tool in relation to assisting Elders in requesting police response,” wrote Marie York-Condon, RCMP spokesperson, in an email.

She added the pilot is early in its development but the RCMP is in discussions with partners within the community — no other details were provided.

It is unclear how many Elders have received phones, or if there are plans to expand the program.

CKLB reached out to various departments within the Tłı̨chǫ Government to see if they have been involved in the project, but each department said they were unsure who was working on the program.

About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. Luke is a graduate of Carleton University's bachelor of journalism program. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at luke.carroll@cklbradio.com