In Kugluktuk, Nunavut RCMP urge united action to restore peace

“it’s not just about the police—it’s about everyone”

The western Nunavut town of Kugluktuk is not the only place in Nunavut dealing with problems caused by alcohol abuse, police say, but its residents have seen a huge increase in alcohol-related incidents since restrictions on bringing in alcohol were lifted last October following a local plebiscite. (Photo by Jane George)

By Jane George

What Nunavut RCMP Superintendent Amanda Jones heard last Friday evening from people at a public meeting in Kugluktuk was clear: residents are dissatisfied with how police officers respond to calls, and they don’t feel safe.

Hamlet leaders, government officials, the local MLA, Mila Kamingoak, and police attended the Aug. 2 meeting, called after a group of Kugluktuk residents protested last month outside the RCMP detachment and sent a letter to officials, condemning what they call police inaction in dealing with increased amounts of alcohol-related mayhem.

“Kudos to them because they don’t want to tolerate it,” Jones told Nunatsiaq News from Iqaluit after the meeting. “But it’s not just about the police—it’s about everyone.”

Jones said the RCMP will do its part by boosting its enforcement and trying to be visible during the busier times.

“But the community needs to stand up too,” Jones said.

The RCMP doesn’t have immediate solutions to offer the western Nunavut community of about 1,500 people.

“It’s something that everyone is going to have to work on together,” she said.

Ideas raised at the meeting included setting up a neighbourhood watch program, the creation of an RCMP auxiliary to assist police, and the hiring of a second bylaw officer by the hamlet.

Adding an officer to the five-member RCMP detachment won’t happen, Jones said, because the budget isn’t there.

But she said efforts will be made to ensure the detachment is fully staffed.

Since residents voted to remove restrictions on alcohol imports last October, drinking has fueled a huge rise in calls to police.

“It’s pretty shocking,” said Jones.

Calls are up by more than 150 per cent, from 709 between Jan. 1, 2018 and July 29, 2018 to 1,999 calls during the same period this year, from Jan. 1, 2019 and July 29, 2019, she said.

That seven-month figure of 1,999 calls is more than the total number of calls—1,440—made to the detachment in the entire year of 2018, she said.

And, of the calls in 2019, 95 per cent are linked to alcohol, she said.

The number of calls made to police by intoxicated people complaining about other intoxicated people have doubled over the last seven months, as have the number of assaults and impaired driving incidents.

Last Thursday, Aug. 1, a crash involving a single all-terrain vehicle, in which alcohol was implicated, killed two residents in Kugluktuk, a 33-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy. The driver’s sister, 22, survived.

“It’s one thing if you’re 33 years and you choose to drive impaired, but the 17-year-old is trusting you,” Jones said.

As for the big fix, the RCMP can’t do it alone, said Jones.

“We’re a band-aid. There’s a social underlying issue as to why people drink, and until we solve this issue, people are going to drink,” she said.

The same problem can be found in other Nunavut communities, where it’s even worse than Kugluktuk, she said.

“It seems bad to them. They’re seeing it because it’s so bad, but there are other communities which are worse off,” she said.

However, the situation is “right in their face” in Kugluktuk, Jones acknowledged. That’s because of the noticeable difference in alcohol-related incidents between October, when the plebiscite on lifting restrictions took place, to December.

“Everyone expected that when you lift restrictions you’re going to get a peak, but eventually you think that it will start dropping down. But it hasn’t peaked and it’s just going on a straight line,” she said.

As for RCMP response times to calls, one of the major complaints made by members of the public about police, Jones said some residents call the detachment for help after hours and leave a message.

But often the on-call members can’t respond, because they are already dealing with a situation.

Jones encouraged people to call the RCMP number, 1-867-979-1111, which receives calls 24-7 and passes them on to police in the communities.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by All the Kings horses, all the kings men. on

    So what is happening with the people who are supposed to be
    working for the community ? They are very well paid to do so.
    I mean recreation directors, social services and whatever
    else freeloaders that you have. Always out on duty travel or
    something. The community is not to blame.
    Good for the R.C.M.P. you can only do with what you have.

  2. Posted by Bootleggers on

    One of the original arguments of lifting the restrictions were that it would cut out the bootleggers, not true. People are getting drunk than calling the bootleg hotline at 3am for a sixty-ouncer of Smirnoff, Families are still going hungry cause their dad spent the entire tax benefit on liquor, and people are still calling the cops cause the drinking buddies they invited over are drunk and obnoxious and wont go home.

    This is a community issue, not an RCMP issue. The RCMP are not babysitters, they are law enforcement agents who work at one of the busiest per-capita detachments in Canada. Time for the community to grow up as a community.

  3. Posted by Kugmiut on

    But it doesn’t amanda didn’t address the rcmp members discrimination and prejudice against the community, in Kugluktuk and every other community; guess it is allowed … monkey see monkey do

  4. Posted by Busy Detachment on

    1,999 calls between January 1 and July 29, which is 210 days. Over the course of a year, that’s about 2.3 calls per resident.
    For reference, Edmonton receives about 469 calls in a day, in a city of 981,000. Over the course of a year, that’s about 0.17 calls per resident.
    So, per capita, people in Kugluktuk call the police 13.5 times as often as in Edmonton. You can blame staffing levels, but I wouldn’t put any blame on the 5 actual RCMP Officers on this one.

    • Posted by Kugmiut on

      But it still doesn’t give them the right to discriminate, it isn’t acceptable under any circumstances

      • Posted by Busy Detachment on

        I haven’t seen anybody other than you mention discrimination. I was simply commenting that it’s very likely due to a extremely high workload that calls are not being addressed as they ideally would be.

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