GN bolsters security at Iqaluit’s beer and wine store after spike in crime

MLA says people are concerned about intimidation, thefts and assaults in the area

A security guard patrols the parking lot of Iqaluit’s beer and wine store in response to recent incidents of criminal activity in the area. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A security guard posted at Iqaluit’s beer and wine store seems to be deterring criminals.

The Finance Department stationed the guard in the parking lot of the store, which is operated by Nunavut’s liquor and cannabis commission, on Aug. 2 in response to a spike in assaults and robberies in the area over the summer.

“The new security measure appears to be having a positive impact in the first two weeks and the NULC will continue to monitor,” said Mark Witzaney, a spokesperson for the department.

He said the liquor commission also asked the RCMP to increase patrols in the area.

The request for more policing dates back to June, when Nunavut RCMP posted an advisory to Facebook warning people about thefts in the area.

That advisory, posted June 16, urged residents to be “vigilant and aware of [their] surroundings” outside of the store following reports that people were having their purchases “stolen both with and without violence.”

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Nunatsiaq News contacted Nunavut RCMP for an interview about increased patrols and statistics on crime in the area. However, by an Aug. 15 story deadline no such interview was arranged.

Instead, spokesperson Sgt. Pauline Melanson provided several emailed statements over the course of two weeks about some of the incidents that have occurred around the store.

She said there were four robberies reported in the area in May. Two men were charged in connection to those incidents and a search warrant was executed on one of them in June.

Melanson said the RCMP had already increased patrols in the area by the time Finance sent out its request.

“The Iqaluit RCMP increased their patrols in the area of the beer and wine store beginning in May when the first two robberies were reported,” she said.

She said the RCMP does not have statistics about how many crimes have occurred in the area this summer.

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Witzaney said Finance also does not have those statistics, and directed Nunatsiaq News back to RCMP for that information.

Thefts, assaults, intimidation

However, crime does seem to be on the rise near the store this summer.

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, whose electoral district includes the beer and wine store, said he has received several complaints from constituents over thefts, assaults and intimidation in the area.

In particular, Lightstone said young women have contacted his office saying they don’t feel safe walking alone in that part of the city.

“I have heard many concerns from individuals … about people being approached, intimidated, violence and robbery, not just in the proximity on the premises but further down the street in the Baffin Gas area,” Lightstone said in an interview.

“It seems the crime severity in the summer months is exceptionally higher than in previous years.”

Lightstone wrote to Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak earlier this summer expressing concern about the situation. He received a response the same week that security first appeared on site at the store.

In a letter to Lightstone, Kusugak said his department takes security in the area seriously and will “measure” the effect of having a security guard in the area.

Lightstone said he is happy about the response, however, he believes the long-term solution is better access to addiction and trauma recovery services.

Lightstone said the Aqqusariaq Recovery Centre in Iqaluit, which had its ground-breaking ceremony Monday, could help. However, construction won’t be completed until December 2025.

“As we all know, a majority of crime and harm that occurs in Iqaluit is directly related and correlated to alcohol,” he said.

“The only solution to addressing the safety concerns is providing that type of programming, but more importantly, trying to promote and educate Iqalummiut about the harmful effects alcohol has not just on the individual, but their family members and their friends and their close circles.”

Extra security is contracted to be in place at Iqaluit’s beer and wine store for the remainder of the summer, Witzaney said.


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(18) Comments:

    • Posted by When was it great ? on

      Food for your thoughts, when was it great? Back in the 20s , 60s. If you look at the history of alcohol in the community, it’s been sick and not great for a long time. Loaded with not great news.

  1. Posted by Where is the responsible drinking that was promoted? on

    I am losing my patience with folk walking around our streets with open beers with children playing in proximity in the middle of the afternoon. Then they dump their empties for the rest of us to clean up.

    Government of Nunavut enforce the damn liquor laws as you are getting rich of these irresponsible drunkards.

    • Posted by Live in Area on

      I live within a 5 min walk of the store and it’s brutal. There’s a daily flow of drunks walking by my place when the store is open and there are empty cans everywhere. The kids in the area are subjected to this which is just awful. Children should not be subjected to the drunkeness, screaming and fighting that goes on around there. And let’s face it, these are repeat offenders. It’s not hard to figure out who they are and to impose consenquences on them. Weekly bans as someone suggested is a great idea, as well as confiscating their beer if caught drinking in public. There are solutions.

      • Posted by Lower base on

        My family was a long term resident in the vicinity of beer and wine store. When it opened crime drastically went up, you didn’t need any multi million dollar studies or GN surveys to know this. Murders, violent crime, public sexual acts, were and are common place in lower base. Nothing has been done, and if you try and voice concerns you are instantly targeted with racism, threats of violence and victimizing.

        The past few Mayors were well acquainted in the violent nature of the area, one even lives there. You can’t even walk or be outside on your own patio without being subject to verbal threats, belligerent vulgarity and having objects thrown at you for existing. Everyone turns a blind eye to people drinking beer near the Canada Post package pickup location. It’s been a ongoing issue for years now.
        During the lockdowns of 2020 to 2021, and the unfiltered CERB cheque it became a literal nightmare in lower base. Many families packed up and left the area, if they were able to, and when the GN let us on airplanes again.

  2. Posted by Wisgy on

    That sign in the picture is a joke. A stick figure drinking, and mention of a fine of $150 for drinking in public. Who, exactly, hands out those fines? What is the penalty for not paying those fines? Is it an actual deterrent if no one enforces it and the people who should be ticketed can’t or won’t ever pay? We all know darn well that for many, the routine is to leave the store and immediately crack open a beer and continue on their merry way, drinking and chucking empties as they go. A couple of big groups congregate in the yards of two vacant buildings in the lower base area, near the store, which is awful and scary if you’re out for a walk with your kids. Nothing is done, and it isn’t the RCMP’s fault. There’s so much of it, there’s no way they can possibly keep up. The best they can hope to do is “triage” the criminal activity, so of course, drinking in public is low on the list. Didn’t the GN say at one point that the beer and wine store had little to no effect on the crime rates? I guess that’s true if the crimes have to be ignored and not recorded because there’s so much crime they can’t keep up with it.

    • Posted by 867 on

      They should start issuing bans to those who get caught drinking in public. First time: 1 week ban from b&w store. Second time: 1 month ban. 3rd time: 6 month.

      • Posted by John WP Murphy on

        Appreciate your thoughts on the problem.

        But ban me all you want. I will have my mother/sister/auntie/ etc get it for me.

        Not sure how to deal with it as I am not a drinker, but something has to be done.

    • Posted by Clean Up for Drinking Up in Public on

      You’ve touched on a number of valid concerns, especially regarding the potential safety issues faced by residents when encountering groups drinking in public spaces.

      Your point about enforcement is valid. A bylaw is only as effective as its enforcement. Instead of just issuing fines which may never be collected, perhaps integrating community service or clean-up efforts could be a more effective way to address the issue. This way, those who violate the rule are directly contributing to the beautification and maintenance of the community they impacted.

  3. Posted by Seriously on

    Let’s start by taking the hands out of the pocket and taking the job seriously

  4. Posted by 180 on

    I agree with 867, banning people from the B&W would make them think twice about travelling around drunk and drinking in public. It really does look bad when people are staggering around like zombies and there are beer cans all over the place. Why can’t people pick up their cans and not litter and make the place look terrible.

  5. Posted by Concerned on

    Is it due to privacy that the court house and B&W don’t share information. My ex was on Conditions not to drink and he was able to buy beer.
    Yes, agree there should be bans allowed. Tired of wading through drunk people while grocery shopping. My kids don’t need to see it

    • Posted by Yes concerned on

      The booze situation is sick in the community. You make that clear. But often people talked about their ex, and continued to find another one just like the ex, and continue to talk about that ex , and it goes and goes, it’s the life of me and my ex, or exes. Choose your next partner, so that you have less chance of talking about your ex.

  6. Posted by Lol, lol. Iqaluit getting worse as kuujjuaq on

    Kuujjuaq too has major issues with alcohol abuse and the zombies that’s produced. Look what happens to civilized people in growing communities. Some people ! Can’t say who, for the sake of political correctness, but some should be fined for even being a foot from the beer. Good people interfered with by the lunatics. Not only should there be fines, and bans for the lunatics, but also charged them for nuisance, and intimidation of good law abiding citizens. Scum bags.

    • Posted by Steven on

      Taking a walk with my son a few days ago, street after street we’d turn away to keep away from them, so take a walk out of town, on Halutik fuel road, no luck, drunks there too!

  7. Posted by Pialukpuq imialuk on

    Why not close it demolish all the liquor stores in Nunavut problem solved. Liquor will not make you happy it just creates problem anger.


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