Iqaluit beach residents seek plan to deal with waterfront woes
“The beach highlights and exaggerates all the pre-existing problems”
Over the summer, Iqaluit’s beach has seen alcohol-fuelled mayhem and some more troubling incidents, including the death of a homeless young man in a shack fire and the discovery of a deliberately killed dog in a sea can.
All of this has alarmed former mayor Madeleine Redfern, who has a clear view of what’s going on from her house.
Recently, she was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of a young woman screaming or yelling. Redfern said she tried to figure out if the woman was in distress or just making noise.
Another night, “the loudest and most intense verbal fighting” that Redfern said she had ever heard outside her home got her out of bed.
Then there was the morning when intoxicated people were still on the beach.
A young woman showed up with a 40-ounce bottle of vodka at 8:40 a.m., Redfern said.
“Screeching and fumbled incoherent speech is not the kind of morning sounds one likes to wake up to. I was going to invite my grandson to play outside at my house but this isn’t pleasant for kids to see or hear,” she said on social media.
The yellow box that a drunkard locked his girlfriend in in the middle of the night and began throwing this large rock at it in a rage. I couldn’t see but I could hear the raging and banging. I called the cops as did Ina. Ina said it took 45 minutes for the police to show up. pic.twitter.com/AgxojQlhwJ
— Madeleine Redfern (@madinuk) August 23, 2020
These incidents are not new: for years, the beach has been lined with shacks, boats and other hunting equipment, and similar disturbances and disasters have taken place there in the past—but not at the same level, Redfern said.
Recently, the beach has become more of a magnet for partiers heading home from the nearby beer and wine store, she said.
“The beach highlights and exaggerates all the pre-existing problems,” Redfern told Nunatsiaq News.
There’s been some extra fuel added to the mix, she said. This includes the increased amounts of alcohol available for purchase at the beer and wine store and the fact that many have tapped into the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which the Government of Nunavut has warned is not “free money.”
As well, the distribution of food from Inuit organizations and the City of Iqaluit related to the COVID-19 pandemic has offered many additional disposable income.
Add to that more mental illness, addictions and overcrowded housing, “and how much of it becomes concentrated on the beach especially with no management or enforcement,” she asked.
Sheila Flaherty, a neighbour of Redfern’s along the beach, is also a city councillor.
Like Redfern, she’s tired of the noise, litter and the miserable human pageant playing out daily by the shore: “it’s really heartbreaking.”
She and another neighbour have also had their tires slashed.
A resident of the neighbourhood since 2011, Flaherty said conditions are much worse now than when she moved there. Long-term dwellers have told her that even in the 1970s when there was a liquor store in Iqaluit, it wasn’t as bad as today.
Just called the ambulance. Someone was passed out on the ground, beachside. 2 people helped him stand up just now, but he can't move. A woman is now on scene as well.
— ❄️Sheila Flaherty | ᓰᓚ ᕙᓚᐅᕈᑎ (@sijjakkut) August 24, 2020
Meanwhile, the issue of cleaning up the beach area has become a political issue still being discussed by the city and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association.
The city says it can’t enforce change, because the QIA owns the land where the shacks stand.
But the two parties have promised to come up with a joint plan to improve the situation.
To show his concern about conditions at the beach, Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell said he went down to the beach neighbourhood after work on Aug. 24 to speak with residents.
He told Redfern later that he knows the cleanup of the neighbourhood is moving at a “snail’s pace,” but the QIA and the city are making progress and “we have all committed to making it better together.”
“QIA is going to start a survey of Inuit people to see what they want done. They will come and talk to us about their plans to move forward,” Bell told Nunatsiaq News.
But he doesn’t see big changes happening until next summer.
A new Twitter account has also been created to voice frustrations about the beach and propose solutions.
The profile of @IqaluitBeach says it’s “Sad and neglected, it’s plain to see. Always dangerous, sometimes deadly. Frightens politicians pretending to be leaders.”
The account has suggested there be an increase in patrols by both the RCMP and city bylaw officers along both sides of the row of shacks and a strict enforcement of public drunkenness bylaws in the area.
It’s also called for known “drinking shacks” to be identified and removed, for wood and other combustible materials to be stored in a way that’s not a fire hazard, and for the area’s shack dwellers to be relocated to a safe area and provided with garbage pickup and portable toilet facilities.