CamBay wants Christmas booze ban

Housing association gets tough on bootleggers, dope sellers

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

JOHN THOMPSON

Concerned residents in Cambridge Bay have one Christmas wish this year: a holiday that’s free of the broken windows, kicked-in doors, drunken brawling and alcohol-related deaths that have plagued the community since the summer.

That’s why the hamlet council decided Nov. 9 to ask the Department of Justice for a 10-day ban on alcohol sales to the community, from Dec. 20 to 29.

“Maybe it will calm them down and we’ll have a peaceful and sober holiday,” Mayor Michelle Gillis said last Thursday.

But Gillis says she’s “on the fence” about the decision herself, because past attempts to ban booze in the community only led to larger-than-usual drinking binges before and after the dry period.

“We have the same problems, but it’s compounded,” she said.

The push for an alcohol import ban came from Emily Angulalik, who started a petition in mid-October that gathered support from elders.

Angulalik said CamBay residents drink more than they did several years ago, and as a result, elders and children are more neglected than ever.

It’s not residents who occasionally drink who concern her. It’s the ones who go on benders and “stay drunk for a few days.”

“That’s not normal,” she said.

With Christmas approaching, Angulalik fears some residents will lose control and spend their money on alcohol, rather than gifts.

“Most of all, our children need Christmas presents. It’s Christmas time.”

A bootlegged 60-ounce bottle of alcohol sells for $300. “You can buy two weeks of groceries, right there,” she said.

At first Angulalik asked council for an alcohol import ban for the entire month of December. But legislation limits such bans to 10 days, Gillis said.

Angulalik also wants the hamlet to consider making CamBay a restricted community. That would mean all alcohol orders would be screened by a committee, which could reject orders from residents known to be disruptive when drunk.

Meanwhile, the Cambridge Bay Housing Association decided to get tough on bootlegging and drug dealing this month.

“There have been tragic accidents over the last several months,” said Vicky Aitaok, manager of the housing association, last Wednesday.

“We’re just really tired of the abuse, the alcohol abuse. We see it so many times here.”

During a Nov. 3 meeting, the board of the association decided to change the house rules, which must be followed by every public housing tenant, to prohibit bootlegging or drug-dealing.

That means, rather than waiting for a criminal conviction, the association could evict tenants after collecting statements from neighbours and RCMP.

Tenants are given a written warning first, Aitaok said, and a chance to reply to any complaints.

But if four complaints are made that accuse a tenant of selling alcohol or drugs, the rental officer can evict that tenant.

With several alcohol-related complaints made to the housing association each weekend, the board felt something needed to be done, Aitaok said.

For example, recently Aitaok received a call for help from a young man, in his late teens or early 20s, who complained his parents were drunk and fighting.

But the next day, the same young man became the subject of a complaint himself, after he damaged another apartment on an alcohol-induced rampage, she said.

All this makes it difficult to trust anyone, Aitaok said. “How do you try to support somebody?” she asked.

The association has 210 units, which Aitaok estimates house between 600 and 700 tenants. Of those, she said she believes more than half either buy or sell bootlegged alcohol.

The community has seen several alcohol-related deaths since the summer, she said – either because of drunken fighting that got out of hand, or suicide.

The board has been trying to find a way to get tough on bootlegging since last December, Aitaok said. They drafted a new illegal actions policy, she said, but they ran into liability issues and it had to be abandoned.

Aitaok is among the residents who signed Angulalik’s petition. She isn’t worried about residents hording alcohol – she said the heavy drinkers won’t be able to wait.

“It’s feast or famine,” she said. “People think they’re going to save it? I think not.”

“People couldn’t save bottles for another day. They’re going to drink while its there.”

Mayor Gillis reminds residents that alcohol counselling is available at the community’s wellness centre. “If they need help, they need to come forward.”

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