February 8, 2002

Nunavut accident rate high, report shows

KIRSTEN MURPHY

Nunavut has the highest fatality and injury rate in the country, according to a Transport Canada report released last month.

The report, called Canadian Motor Vehicle Collision Statistics for 2000, estimates that 10.4 people for every 10,000 registered motor vehicles died in Nunavut in 2000, compared with a rate of 1.2 per 10,000 in Ontario.

If the numbers are right, it means a person is 10 times more likely to die on Nunavut roads than in Ontario. The national fatality rate is 1.6, the document says.

However, as in many statistical surveys of small population groups, rates expressed as a proportion can vary dramatically from year-to-year.

Nunavut also scored high in the personal injury department, with 330 per 10,000 injuries in 2000. In second place was Prince Edward Island, with 141. The national average was 121 per 10,000. The Northwest Territories posted the lowest rate, with 80.

Neither the report’s authors or Transport Canada could be reached for comment by press-time on Wednesday evening.

An employee at the motor vehicle office in Iqaluit referred all inquires about road safety to Manitok Thompson, the minister of Community Government and Transportation.

Thompson could not be reached by press-time.

Administrative Coroner Tim Neily said the numbers from Canadian Motor Vehicle Collision Statistics for 2000 sounded high for Nunavut.

"I’m surprised. There’s always the possibility someone was injured here, medevaced south, died in the south and we weren’t notified. That sort of thing has been a problem for years," Neily said.

A former statistics instructor, Neily knows number-crunching leaves room for interpretation.

"You can make numbers say just about anything, depending on what your goal is," he said.