GN denies Iqaluit bylaw amendment that would allow cannabis store to open downtown

Amendment that would let store to operate next to Northmart passed by city council

Higher Experience Inc. manager Kevin Ikeno speaks at a public hearing on Aug. 9 about a new cannabis store that would be located next to Northmart. (Photo by David Venn)

By Meral Jamal

The Government of Nunavut has denied the City of Iqaluit an amendment to a zoning bylaw that will allow a cannabis store to open downtown.

Council voted in favour of the amendment on Aug. 9. It would allow Higher Experience Inc. to occupy 50 per cent of the ground floor of Building 760 — which is about 100 metres from the Lower Base playground and 150 metres from the Nakasuk elementary school playground.

But a change like this needs more than council approval: The Department of Community and Government Services oversees changes to municipal bylaws because the department is responsible for community planning and land administration across the territory.

A unsigned email from the Department of Community and Government Services said the amendment didn’t receive approval because the city failed to define an ‘appropriate distance’ to separate a cannabis store from a school. 

Once a clear definition of what the city deems an appropriate distance is established, the bylaw can be assessed again, states the email.

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell said the city is now working on an updated amendment.

Council will bring forward a new version of the amendment for first and second reading at its next council meeting, set for Oct 11. It will include the addition of a minimum distance that cannabis stores need to be from residential, institutional and recreational use facilities.

“Everything in town is close to a school or playground. That’s why council supported this legal cannabis store to open,” Bell said. “But [CGS] wanted a quantitative definition of an acceptable distance.” 

Nunatsiaq News was unable to reach Higher Experience Inc. manager Kevin Ikeno for comment.

Coun. Kimberly Smith said if the GN ultimately denies the amendment, it may affect the city’s harm reduction efforts regarding use of drugs in the city. 

“It’s no secret that drugs are sold in front of Northmart and Arctic Ventures,” she said.

“A store would help keep cannabis out of the hands of kids, and might also stop some of the loitering and negative interactions that have been known to occur in these areas.”

She said “if people have the option of walking an additional 50 feet to purchase a legal, regulated product, most people will. It may not eliminate the issue entirely, but I believe it will certainly help.”

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(26) Comments:

  1. Posted by John K on

    Councilor Smith is spot on!

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    • Posted by What the heck? on

      Why is this being allowed next door to the brand new healing center that contains a daycare? Being built as we speak?

      Also the drugs being sold in front of NM and Ventures are mostly hard drugs now, not pot so no she is not spot on, as the majority of pot users order their supplies from the south (or the other store in town) But good try!

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      • Posted by John K on

        Everything is always so apocalyptic.

        Be afraid! Be very afraid!

        Why does no one talk about the positive effect of the healing center on people utilizing the dispensary? Oh right, because that sort of positivity would be counterproductive for this Armageddon narrative people here push whenever weed or alcohol comes up.

        Nice try, doomer.

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  2. Posted by Iqalummiut on

    How about enacting a loitering bylaw and enforcing it? It is a public health issue.

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    • Posted by G-man Choi on

      Yes its time to stop this hanging around stores entrances and asking for money or cigarettes, its annoying to be bothered by the same people day in day out, not to mention the health risks.

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  3. Posted by Any policies on

    Does Community and Government Services have a community planning and land administration policy that would inform what is required for a zoning application.

    An unsigned email sounds kind of fishy to me. What criteria or guideline is CGS relying on to state there has to be ‘appropriate distance’. In terms of safety of the public vs the need for businesses or economic growth, its not clear how CGS determined that there needed to be an appropriate distance.

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    • Posted by Thee Policy on

      From the wording of the article, it seems to state that the GN didn’t require there be an appropriate distance from certain uses. CGS is asking for the City to clarify the wording in their own By-law, which seems to be vague and not have clear defined setbacks related to “appropriate distances”.

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      • Posted by Jane Inuk on

        Have you actually seen the draft bylaw? As I understand it they just voted to change the zoning on a specific piece of property. I’m not sure why that needs “clarification”.

  4. Posted by flo on

    I agree with Smith and support the opening of the store. But Bell’s conduct on social media is so embarrassing. Bylaws need to be clear, having a quantifiable distance is what makes enforcing the bylaw possible.

    Kenny would rather whine on twitter about CGS instead of working in partnership with the GN or just getting it right in the first place.

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    • Posted by Umingmak on

      Bell’s combative demeanor definitely doesn’t help the City of Iqaluit to work with the GN on anything. He demands partnerships, but has no desire to act like an equal partner.

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      • Posted by Here’s the Reality on

        Umm, the city isn’t an equal partner – it is very much a junior partner.

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      • Posted by Bridge burner on

        Has bell successfully partnered with anyone, anytime throughout his term? He just burns bridges by defecting from his own inadequacy . He has not been a leader. He has shown that he clearly lacks this competency time and time again

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  5. Posted by Eric Cartman on

    GN bad, Mayor good. Do not question my Authora-Tayy

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  6. Posted by UpHere on

    Look at the Iqaluit planing and lands webpage. They have no staff with 6 vacancies of 8 positions. No serious planning and land decisions are being made amd Council, is getting poor advice. There’s been no Director for over a year and even basic land clerk filings are not getting done. Now CGS has to step is where the City lacks professionals. It’s time CGS took over Iqaluit planning because the staff turnover and no recruitment is awful. It’s kills the city and wasting resources. No land for housing. Poor location advice for service and utilities. It’s a total mess and the mayor and company have done nothing to fill these positions.

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  7. Posted by Maq-Pat on

    Department of Community and Government Services can not deny this bylaw amendment, only the Minister of CGS can. Kenny’s tweet indicates the email they got is from an Acting Director, which is a temporary work assignment for someone normally from middle management. It does not matter what that bureaucrat thinks, the power for this decision rests with their boss’ boss’ boss. Director > Assistant Deputy Minister > Deputy Minister > Minister. The City and it’s citizens need an answer directly from MINISTER DAVID JOANASIE. Nunatsiaq are you seeking comment from him?

    Nunavut Planning Act section 26
    https://www.nunavutlegislation.ca/en/consolidated-law/planning-act-consolidation

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    • Posted by No Idea at all on

      Nunatsiaq is not doing that because they are not attuned to the inner workings of things in Nunavut. They are adept at churning out thinly researched but passable stories all day and revel in the Quebec media awards they earn like clockwork and which tell them they are doing ‘okay’!

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  8. Posted by WTF??? on

    Council held a public hearing and made a decision based on their knowledge of the city. Interesting that unelected CGS bureaucrats think they need to overrule a decision of the elected council.

    The GN has a cannabis licensing system that takes into account public opinion, public safety, building security, staff training, etc. CGS is not the right entity to be making a decision on cannabis licensing.

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    • Posted by You obviously didn’t read…. on

      If you had taken the time to read CGS did not reject the bylaw based on the decision they made but on the lack of clarity. Bylaws need to be clear and defined as they set a standard to be followed. CGS issue was not with the location of opening of a cannabis store, but of the cities failure to “define an ‘appropriate distance’ to separate a cannabis store from a school.” You can just say “appropriate distance” in a bylaw and leave it up to interpretation, you need to state what that distance will be.

      CGS staff have the ability to work with the city to have them clean this up before the Minister signs off on it, and I believe they did the right thing so that way if future stores, or the current store move locations they will know before they start spending money on the development and application how far they will need to be from a school.

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      • Posted by WTF??? on

        I haven’t been able to find the text of the rejected bylaw but it is my understanding that council voted to rezone a specific piece of property. I’m not sure why that needs to be clarified.

  9. Posted by Colin on

    I know three adults who will never ever be able to lead a normal life. One from Nunavut. They fried their brains with cannabis in their teenage years and when under 21.

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  10. Posted by Piitaqanngi on

    Cut Kenny Bell some slack. You elected him in the last election. If you want a more adept person as mayor, nominate more qualified individuals in the next election then. You had two choices for the Mayoral position and he got the confidence of the majority of voters. Stop whining and start doing something positive for the City you cyber warriors.

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  11. Posted by G-man Choi on

    You can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to put any kind of beer/wine/weed store near a school period. Enough said! Stop all the whining, put it out on the West 40 away from schools.

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    • Posted by Yep on

      Not to mention 20 feet away from a healing centre that is being built, people trying to get better from their addiction will have to walk past the cannabis store to get to the healing centre, if it’s like the other cannabis store in town people will light up right after buying their merchandise in front of the store, that stuff stink so much, I don’t know how they can’t smell how bad it is. I guess like smokers they get used to it and don’t smell it anymore.

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    • Posted by John K on

      It’s been approved by council and will probably go ahead once the by-law has been clarified.

      Can we expect you to heed your own advice if that happens?

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  12. Posted by Maq-Pat on

    I’m SOOOOO glad that the bylaw now specifies the minimum distance this FIXED LOCATION has to be from the school and playground. We’re now really ready for when a massive earthquake rearranges the downtown.

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  13. Posted by Duuuuudddddeeeee on

    too bad that idea went up in smoke

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