Vol. 80, No. 1News notes

Two police officers (one male, one female) and three community members stand in front of wooden structure with hanging lifejackets.

Lifejacket loan promotes water safety

Local RCMP collaborated with community partners and government to create a loan-and-return lifejacket station in Old Crow, Yukon. Credit: Old Crow RCMP


A loan-and-return station with 100 lifejackets is helping residents in Old Crow, Yukon, stay safe on the water. The life preservers are free for anyone to borrow, and come in a variety of sizes to fit children, youth and adults.

"You take a lifejacket when you go and when you come home, you put it back for the next person to use," explains Tracy Rispin, manager of the Old Crow Co-Op store who helped create the station.

She proposed the idea to local RCMP and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Government following a trip to Fort Yukon, Alaska — another Gwitchin First Nation community — where she saw a similar lifejacket loan station.

"I thought, 'that's so convenient because not everybody can afford a good lifejacket,'" says Rispin.

Earlier this year, two residents from Fort Yukon died in a boating accident. The lone survivor was the only one wearing a lifejacket.

"It really opens your eyes to what can happen," says Rispin. "I wanted to work together for the safety of our people and our children. This could save lives."

Old Crow is a remote fly-in First Nations community with a population less than 300, making affordable access to amenities like lifejackets difficult. After Rispin proposed the idea, the Vuntut Gwitchin Government agreed to purchase 50 lifejackets for the station, and Canadian Tire matched their contribution, donating an additional 50 jackets.

"The river is so important to the community" says Cpl. Yvon Largess, detachment commander of Old Crow RCMP who partnered with Rispin on the project. "This is just one more way we can promote water safety."

The loan-and-return station was erected at the town's boat launch on the Porcupine River in September. Largess says since the station was built, he's noticed many residents taking advantage of the lifejackets.

"It's for safety on the water when people go on hunting or fishing trips, or out for picnics," says Largess. "It's there so nobody will be stuck without a lifejacket in Old Crow."

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