Nunavik cops make small dent in booze, dope trade
Regional contraband market estimated at $30 million
PUVIRNITUQ — Police in Nunavik have seized drugs and alcohol with an estimated street value of $726,065 since the beginning of the year, keeping them out of Nunavik’s 14 communities.
But they’re only grabbing a small percentage of the $30-million-a-year market, officers with the Kativik Regional Police Force admitted May 30 at the meeting of the Kativik Regional Government in Puvirnituq.
The drugs seized included eight kilograms of marijuana, nearly 600 grams of hash oil, 134 pills and illegal alcohol with a street value of about $175,160.
A single operation in Montreal this past March netted $250,000 worth of weed, hash oil, pills and alcohol.
Some $70,000 worth of alcohol, more recently seized, was destined for Puvirnituq. More than 220 mickeys contained the lethal “alcool,” a high-proof (94 per cent) brand of vodka.
In the beginning of 2012, Puvirnituq was in disarray, said KRG executive member Aisara Kenuajuak.
Now it has calmed down, he said. The police are receiving fewer calls, health workers are not as busy, and people are able to sleep at night.
“We hope there is a complete stop to the selling of alcool,” Kenuajuak said. “Our community has improved and people are happier.”
Bootleggers regularly sell alcohol in Nunavik at eight times more its retail southern price.
When they do that, they’re breaking the Quebec liquor law, municipal bylaws and federal laws and regulations, the KRPF reminded KRG counsellors and Nunavimmiut listening to the meeting on the Taqramiut Nipingat Inc. radio network.
But stopping the flow of alcohol and drugs into Nunavik won’t be as easy as many would like.
That will take education and more resources for addictions treatment, the KRPF said.
And for arrests, the KRPF needs to receive information, said KRPF interim police chief Aileen MacKinnon, who was officially named chief at the meeting.
MacKinnon encouraged Nunavimmiut with tips to call the KRPF’s detective investigator Alex Moring, at (819) 964-2488, even if they have some small bit of information about bootlegging or drug trafficking in the community.
Several small tips recently led to the arrest in Kuujjuaq of two men, she said: one who had come from the South to set himself up in business as a drug and alcohol seller in town; the other was a local man who arrived from Montreal to Kuujjuaq with a stash of drugs on his body.
Both are now in remand in Amos, she said.
Statistics tabled at the KRG meeting confirm that Puvirnituq is a bit calmer than it was in 2011.
There have been 592 assaults on this community of about 1,400 since the beginning of 2012, compared to 689 during the same period last year.
That trend is reflected throughout Nunavik where total criminal incidents in the region have gone down from 2,912 during the first three months of 2011 to 2,740 during the same period in 2012.
The KRPF still has its hands full. Sexual assaults rose by nearly a third in 2012 compared to 2011.
And some councillors at the meeting complained about excessive use of force by KRPF officers.
There were 87 assaults recorded against police, say police statistics tabled May 30.
MacKinnon said the KRPF has made improvements in the way officers do their jobs and they’re making sure their arrests stick – although no names of any individuals who had been arrested in drug or alcohol operations were mentioned.
The force, established as a native police force, remains mainly non-Inuit, with statistics from May 2012 showing that 81 per cent of its staff are non-Inuit.