Cape Dorset suffers hellish day of booze and bullets

Nunavut RCMP says arrival of liquor shipments in Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung led to outbreaks of violence and mayhem


Following two separate days of booze-fueled mayhem in Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung this past week, a senior officer at Nunavut’s RCMP division says something has to be done to control the flow of alcohol into Nunavut communities.

“All hell breaks loose. I think we need to do a whole lot better job educating the public about liquor consumption and the evils of it. There needs to be more treatment, and, in all the communities, there needs to be a push to deal with liquor,” said Supt. Howard Eaton of the RCMP “V” Division, in a July 30 interview from Iqaluit.

Eaton’s comments came after police in Cape Dorset dealt with a drunken, gun-toting man who fired a gun towards a group of children on July 28 from inside a house.

Police first received a call at about 10 p.m. that evening, saying there was an intoxicated male inside a house who was “causing problems.”

As the RCMP members drove up to the house, a man pointed a hunting rifle out of a window.

At one point during the incident, he fired a shot in the direction of a group of children, an RCMP news release said.

Before the “V” Division emergency response team left the Iqaluit airport to fly to Cape Dorset, the three members of Cape Dorset detachment managed to take the man into custody.

The man passed out. When he awoke, he staggered out of the house and was arrested, said Sgt. James McLaren, one of three RCMP members in Cape Dorset.

Qavavau Shaa, 18, who appeared before a justice of the peace July 29, faces a total of 12 criminal charges, mostly involving firearms and mischief.

The Cape Dorset RCMP detachment usually has four members, but on July 28 only three were in the community.

They worked more than 24 hours without rest. A fourth member was en route to the community July 30.

Other incidents, including suicide attempts and assaults, also occurred in Cape Dorset July 28.

On that day, 22 liquor shipments — all legally ordered — arrived at the same time in the alcohol-controlled community.

Police in Cape Dorset said they usually start to receive calls for assistance within two hours of the plane’s arrival in the community if alcohol is part of the cargo.

In Pangnirtung, a so-called dry community, where the possession of alcohol is legally prohibited, similar chaos, also connected to the arrival of liquor into the community, erupted on July 24.

These two situations are an example of what happens when alcohol comes to town, Eaton said.

“It happens in most communities. Any time any of the members in any of the communities get busy, we tie this to back to liquor. Whether it’s legal or illegal, there’s always a link,” he said.

The results of the review of the territorial liquor act, due to start shortly, may lessen the impact that alcohol has in the communities, Eaton said.

But dealing with alcohol isn’t just the Government of Nunavut’s responsibility, he added.

“Everyone has to play their part,” Eaton said. “You can’t be a government and implement a cure. The cure has to come from within the community and within the people, and the government has to facilitate that.”

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