Hudson Bay communities see stabbings, brawls, attacks on police

Booze brings wave of violence in Nunavik


This summer, the free flow of booze has wreaked havoc in the Hudson Bay communities of Nunavik, leading to stabbings, shootings, vandalism and accidents.

This past weekend, in Puvirnituq, an intoxicated man broke a chair over the head of a member of the Kativik Regional Police Force who was trying to break up a drunken brawl.

And in Akulivik, a frightened female member of the KRPF, a recent arrival to the community, barricaded herself inside the police station early Sunday morning after she found a gang of people waiting for her at her transit home.

This incident – and others, including a vehicle accident and vandalism in the municipal office – was fueled by the arrival of a large quantity of alcohol into Akulivik.

"There were a lot of people who were drunk in Akulivik," said KRPF deputy chief Jobie Epoo in an interview on Tuesday. "There's a lot of alcohol in the communities."

On August 6, police say a large drunken party in Inukjuak turned ugly near midnight, when several intoxicated people started to fight.

"It escalated to a stabbing," Epoo said.

A man received five knife wounds to his back, which police say are not life-threatening. He is recovering in a Montreal hospital.

Two men, aged 17 and 22, were to be charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

That Monday, police officers had "very, very busy that night" in Inukjuak, Epoo said. That's because they also had to deal with other calls, including a serious conjugal violence incident.

While responding to those calls, friends of the two young men came to the Inukjuak police station, saying they wanted to visit the detainees.

But they were refused entry. As a result, they vandalized the detachment's new Dodge Dakota pick-up truck in revenge, breaking its windows and causing other damage to the body. The truck, with the new polar bear-KRPF logo on the side, had only recently arrived on the sealift.

"It's unfortunate," Epoo said. "Whenever alcohol gets into the wrong hands, there's always something bound to happen. There seems to be a lot more young people drinking. Alcohol is the major factor in these incidents."

This was the second stabbing incident to take place in Inukjuak in less than a month.

Epoo said two weeks ago a troubled youth was involved in another stabbing incident. Epoo said the young man had wanted to leave the community and that police tried to get him some help from social services, but without any positive results. Judged by health workers as suicidal, the youth ended up at in custody at the police station.

"In the end, he was released. Subsequently he stabbed someone," Epoo said.

Last month, also in Inukjuak, a member of the KRPF was shot at while driving a police van around town. This vehicle is now back in service while the new pick-up truck waits to be repaired.

After an order by the Puvirnituq municipal council to stop all alcohol orders in July, alcohol started flowing into the community again in August. By Aug. 3, large quantities of beer, wine and spirits were available in town.

The result? One man flew into a drunken rage, trashed his house, and shot out some of his windows with a rifle, while several drunk drivers suffered serious injuries in accidents and had to be medevaced to Montreal.

During this period of booze-fueled mayhem, the KRPF is still grappling with a lack of qualified personnel due to resignations and holidays. Epoo said there was an "extraordinary" amount of work for police to handle, particularly in ­Puvirnituq.

That's why the female KRPF member in Akulivik – who was the object of a near-confrontation over the weekend – was left with no back-up over several hours on Saturday night. Some say this encouraged the gang to wait for her at the KRPF transit house.

The member's regular partner had been sent to Puvirnituq to help out there over the weekend. An ex-police officer, whose background check has not yet been accepted by Quebec's public security department, was asked to come in as a replacement this past weekend.

But Epoo said the temporary hire had to leave to deal with an unexpected family emergency of his own for several hours.

Epoo said on the Hudson Bay coast, as well as in in Kangiqsualujjuaq and Tasiujaq, the KRPF is trying to resolve its manpower crisis. He said a new constable would be assigned either to Inukjuak or Puvirnituq this week.

"If the question is whether the SQ [the Sûreté du Québec provincial police] is going to take over in a couple of days, the answer is no,"Epoo said. "We're not looking at that kind of situation in the next couple of months. If we don't have unexpected resignations, we should be good until the end of the year."

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