Western Nunavut town opts to dump alcohol restrictions

60.8 per cent vote to dissolve alcohol education committee

By JANE GEORGE

The results of a plebiscite held Oct. 22 in Kugluktuk mean that this western Nunavut community will no longer have an alcohol education committee and residents will only be subject to the general liquor laws of Nunavut. (FILE PHOTO)


The results of a plebiscite held Oct. 22 in Kugluktuk mean that this western Nunavut community will no longer have an alcohol education committee and residents will only be subject to the general liquor laws of Nunavut. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated, 4 p.m.)

The residents of Kugluktuk voted Monday in favour of dumping their alcohol education committee, which had the power to refuse any request to bring alcohol into the community of about 1,500 people.

The results of the vote means there will be no restrictions on bringing liquor into Kugluktuk anymore, except for the general liquor laws that apply in Nunavut.

Elections Nunavut said at about 8:30 MT that 281 residents, or 60.8 per cent of those who voted in the plebiscite, said “yes” to abolishing the committee and that 181, or 39.2 per cent, said “no.”

The vote in favour of change was more than the 60 per cent required.

The voter turnout was 67 per cent, Elections Nunavut said.

The vote came 11 years after the 2007 plebiscite in Kugluktuk when residents decided to clamp down on the amount of alcohol flowing into their community by establishing the committee.

“The residents of Kugluktuk have spoken,” said George Hickes, Nunavut’s finance minister, said in a statement Oct. 23.

“In order to accommodate this plebiscite result, the Government of Nunavut will move forward with making the necessary regulatory changes in the near future,” he said.

Until those changes are made, the Kugluktuk Alcohol Education Committee is still responsible for the approval of liquor sales in the community, the statement said.

Residents had mixed feelings about voting out the alcohol education committee in this week’s plebiscite,

“I think it has done great for our community and has made a huge difference, but it has also not all has been good as you know bootlegging still continues and has gotten worse since the committee came into effect and brew also has gotten worse,” said a resident in a comment posted on the Kugluktuk Facebook news page.

A 34-signature petition submitted to the Nunavut government triggered the Oct. 22 plebiscite.

Under the alcohol education committee, residents had to ask the committee for approval to bring alcohol into Kugluktuk. The committee was able place restrictions on how much alcohol individuals could purchase, or even refuse applications.

During the last liquor plebiscite in Kugluktuk in 2014, when there was a turnout of 65 per cent, the question was the same as the one in yesterday’s plebiscite.

But, of the 410 votes cast, 44 per cent voted “yes,” and 56 per cent for “no.”

In 2007, when a liquor plebiscite also took place, 234 Kugluktuk residents voted “yes” and 120 voted “no” to a question that asked them if they backed the establishment of an alcohol education committee.

About 65 per cent of those who cast ballots said “yes,” exceeding the 60-per-cent threshold needed to establish the committee.

Before that liquor plebiscite of 2007, when there were no limits on the amounts of alcohol that Kugluktuk residents could purchase, it wasn’t unusual to see drunken individuals stumbling down the streets and public yelling matches between intoxicated residents.

At the same time, the police were overwhelmed trying to keep the peace.

But, during the summer of 2007, three two-week bans on alcohol led to reductions in the rate of violent crime.

Earlier this year, Baker Lake also voted to eliminate its alcohol education committee.

Communities that still have alcohol education committees include Arctic Bay, Cape Dorset, Chesterfield Inlet, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Kimmirut, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Repulse Bay, Resolute Bay and Whale Cove.

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