There are no territorial legislation that make it mandatory for people to wear helmets while biking or skateboarding in the N.W.T.

But following the death of Josh Hardy, an 18-year-old in Yellowknife from a head injury he suffered while longboarding, a spokesman for the N.W.T.’s Department of Transportation said getting people to wear helmets while participating in recreational activities isn't as simple as creating new laws.


Earl Blacklock, spokesman for N.W.T.'s Department of Transportation, said the majority of people have to accept and respect the need to wear helmets first before legislation can be effective. (CBC)

Earl Blacklock said the majority of people have to accept and respect the need to wear helmets first before legislation. He said there's still a long way to go before wearing them becomes the norm.

"It's simply impossible for law enforcers to be everywhere where people are skateboarding," he said.

"Enforcement isn't the first tool in our tool kit. The first tool is always information. The second tool is social marketing so we can persuade people to help their neighbours and help themselves to make right choices."

In the N.W.T., helmet use is only mandatory while driving ATVs or snowmobiles on public roads. Municipalities can choose to set up their own bicycle helmet laws.  According to Mayor Gord Van Tighem, Yellowknife tried unsuccessfully to create a bike helmet bylaw nine years ago.

Blacklock said tragedies often make issues such as wearing seatbelts, lifejackets, or helmets personal and the benefit may be that they can help change people's attitudes. He said these attitudes have to change before legislation can be effective, and parents can play a big role.

"As the kid is going out the door without the helmet, they really need to ask themselves, do they want that child to come back whole, and if they do, they really need to be the bad guy, as it were. The child will appreciate it in the end. We need to have that persuasion from the home, from the family."

In the past two years, the GNWT has paid for skateboard helmets for a program at Yellowknife’s SideDoor Youth Centre.  Those helmets are for kids to use when they're in the program, but Blacklock said they're hopeful the program continues so helmets can also be put some in the hands of kids that can't afford them.

Blacklock also said the territorial government is planning a helmet safety campaign this fall and that will include programming in schools.

with files from CBC's Elizabeth McMillan