MONTREAL -- Ah, the great Canadian northwest, where the mighty Mackenzie River rumbles to the frigid Beaufort Sea. Land of the Mounties, land of the Inuit.
A land soon, perhaps, to be known as "Bob."
In 1999, Canada's 1.3 million-square-mile Northwest Territories will split in two, with the eastern region to become Nunavut, a vast semi-autonomous homeland for the Inuit, or Eskimos, who will make up 80 percent of the 22,000 residents.
The more densely populated western realm, with 45,000 people bunched in an arctic enclave of 504,165 square miles, is seeking its own identity.
Territorial political leaders recently asked residents to propose names for the new region. The top five picks will be put to a vote this fall.
When the deadline for submitting names passed recently, more than 5,000 people favored keeping the name Northwest Territories.
In second place, though a few thousand votes behind, was a dark horse candidate: Bob.
Bob ranks well ahead of the 190 other contenders, which include Restavit, Alluvit, Fullavit, Tundraland, Freedom Territory, Eskimo Pie and Snobound.
The campaign for Bob is being waged on the Internet, where supporters have created a Web site listing compelling reasons why the Northwest Territories should be renamed Bob, such as:
" 'Bob' sounds the same in each of the official languages of the Northwest Territories," including English, French, Cree, Inukitut and Dene. So, no ethnic feathers would be ruffled.
" 'A spokesman for Bob said ' sounds friendlier in news reports than 'A spokesman for the Northwest Territories said ' "
Politicians and aboriginal leaders are unamused.
"The campaign to make the name of the Western Territory into 'Bob' is not humorous," said J. Michael Miltenberger, member of the territorial assembly. "This campaign is hurting the reputation vTC of residents of the Western Arctic across North America and beyond."
Officials recently extended the deadline for submitting new names to Aug. 31.
Pub Date: 8/16/96