Imprint Online: Features - Friday, November 26, 1999 (Volume 22, Number 19)
Imprint Home
Washarama Ad


What about Bob, Water-Lou?

An American’s interest seems to outshine Canada’s in NWT

Jon Willing
special to Imprint

Who says that Americans don’t care about what goes on in Canada? If you have any interest in politics in the far north, then you probably already know of Canada’s potentially renamed territory, “Bob”, presently known as the Northwest Territories.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the great name debate, Bob Mellen would be happy to fill you in.

Bob Mellen, an 18 year-old native of Louisville, Kentucky, has launched a full-blown informal marketing campaign that aims to rename the Northwest Territories.

His website,, outlines the debate in full detail, describing the birth of Canada’s new province, Nunavut, and the government of the Northwest Territories’ concern over renaming their territory to coincide with the more appealing name that their sister territory inherited.

According to, the Northwest Territories held a survey open to residents to rename their territory. The present name, “Northwest Territories,” won the battle, claiming over 6,000 votes in a phone poll.

However, a mere 5,980 votes behind was “Bob” in second place, and Mellen is keen on winning the war. refers constantly to “The Man,” analogous to George Orwell’s “Big Brother” in 1984, to add an odd anti-state edge to the site. Using this comparison, Mellen attempts to show that the government would not be exercising democracy if it didn’t offer a renaming referendum to residents of the Northwest Territories.

In fact, he publishes a letter on the site that he wrote to the Coordinator of the Special Committee on Western Identity, Lynda Comerford, calling for the government’s admittance that it should leave the decision up to the residents.

He also notes that, although Mellen is an American, “he is deeply concerned about a certain issue (the renaming of NWT) which is vital to the lives of tens of thousands of Canadians.”

Mellen also publishes letters he received from NWT government on the site.

In one letter, Mellen accuses NWT Press Secretary, Judy Langford, of reading the premier’s e-mail. Langford wrote to Mellen expressing her concern over online forms being sent to her e-mail address via ( supplies two forms on the site for users to fill out and send to Comerford or Premier Jim Antoine).

Mellen mentions in his defense that the form replies are directed to Comeford and the premier, and that the e-mails she receives are not possible unless she is reading the premier’s e-mail. Mellen may be implying that government leaders don’t read their own mail.

Some of Mellen’s reasons for renaming Northwest Territories “Bob” include the idea that the government would no longer be “big brother,” because “Bob’s your uncle!,” the RCMP could be renamed “Bobbies,” “Bob says. . .” sounds much better than “the government of the Northwest Territories says . . .”; and, the Bob & Doug Mackenzie River flows through it.

From Mellen’s published text, visitors may conclude that is a pure farce. However, Mellen sites that many media giants have picked up on his motives, including The Wall Street Journal and .Net Magazine, and he has received site accolades from Web portals like Yahoo Canada and Indiegeek.

Even though Mellen will probably — no, wait, definitely — lose his protest, his site proves to be mildly amusing. There’s nothing more odd than reading that “Louisville, Kentucky is the world headquarters for the campaign to re-name the Canadian Northwest Territories, ‘Bob’.”

There’s no use now but to follow the trend, eh University of Water-Lou?

Cover Page | Section index | Previous article | Next article
Last updated by: on