Booze can boss faces Nunavut liquor act charges

Explorers Club general manager vows he will fight charges in Supreme Court if need be


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Joe Morneau says the liquor act violation he’s been charged with is a joke.

“There is no Crown down south that would even allow this to go to court.,” says the owner of the West 40 property that was raided earlier this year by RCMP officers investigating allegations that liquor was being sold there without a licence.

“If you had a problem with the licensing in any establishment are you going to go in there and charge one of the employees?” said Morneau. Morneau says he was just an employee of the Explorers Club, which was a tenant in his building.

“At the time I was charged I was a contracted employee, with a legitimate two-year contract from the executive of the Explorers Club, which is a legally incorporated non-profit society. And they had a valid five-plus-five-year lease here. And the police acted as if none of that existed.”

He said the charge would have been more properly leveled at the Explorers Club itself. Morneau was contracted to be the club’s general manager. He said that he did not sit on the club’s executive board.

But police say they proceeded with their investigation in the manner they felt appropriate.

“We consulted with Crown counsel and those are the charges that we felt were appropriate,” said Staff Sergeant Jim McDougal of the Iqaluit RCMP. He said that three other people were charged the night of the raid with buying alcohol from someone who didn’t have a licence.

McDougal said penalties for selling liquor without a permit range from a minimum $500 fine to a maximum fine of $5,000 and a possible six-month jail term.

Morneau says he will fight the charges and appeal his case to the Supreme Court if need be.

He made a first appearance recently in Justice of the Peace court but the matter was set over to August 16 because the Crown said it was not ready to proceed.

Morneau says he was also in Justice of the Peace court several weeks ago to face allegations that the Explorers Club had violated town bylaws.

“The Explorers club was charged with not having a development permit and was charged with not having a city licence. I was going to ask the judge to find two words in the entire town bylaw that govern business — those two words being ‘private club.’ But the judge never showed, so I tore the tickets up.”

The Explorers Club premises, located on property owned by companies that Morneau controls, were known locally as the “Booze Can.”

This week, Morneau said he is withdrawing from a group of Iqaluit residents who are proposing to seek a liquor licence for a legal bar to be located in the same location as the so-called “Booze Can.”

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