Iqaluit mayor presses finance minister for tougher liquor restrictions

Minister says the territory’s liquor laws need ‘significant’ changes all around

Finance Minister George Hickes says the territory’s system for controlling liquor imports is very outdated and “would benefit from significant modernization.” (File photo)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell criticized Finance Minister George Hickes Tuesday, saying that the minister and his department have failed to adopt policies to limit the amount of hard liquor that is allowed imported into the territory.

Bell made the comments during an RCMP report to city council on Tuesday, where Staff Sgt. Robert Gallant outlined that 63 per cent of calls for service in May involved alcohol-related incidents.

“Every mayor in Nunavut wants the Government of Nunavut to limit the amount of hard liquor they allow imported into the community,” he said. “And the Government of Nunavut has still done nothing.”

At a Nunavut Association of Municipalities meeting a year ago, community mayors passed a motion calling on the GN to restrict large amounts of alcohol being brought into the territory.

“This has not happened and I don’t understand why,” said Bell, who is the president of the association.

“Hard liquor is killing all of our communities across Nunavut. All of the mayors have said this, this council has said this,” Bell said. “We need them to listen.”

In an email to Nunatsiaq News, Hickes said he recognizes the harm alcohol causes in the territory and also that many Nunavummiut consume it responsibly.

“Our main concern is not so much about the total volume of liquor flowing into the territory, but instead about what happens to the product once it gets here — where it goes, who it goes to, and how people consume it,” he said.

Hickes said the issue has “been on our radar for some time” and that he and the department are considering ways to cut down on large imports.

“I appreciate it can be hard for people outside government to see what goes on here behind the scenes,” he said. “However, lots needs to happen before we make regulatory changes like restricting quantities of imports.”

The government does not want to limit “someone restocking their home bar or bringing up a year’s worth of wine on sealift,” he said, but extreme imports.

More, Hickes said the government needs to take into consideration each community’s individual liquor laws.

In Arviat and Coral Harbour, for example, alcohol is prohibited, as per the most recent community plebiscite in November 2020. In Baker Lake, the community voted this past spring to keep its unrestricted system for alcohol purchases.

Bell said he wants laws in place by the time the current territorial government is done, but Hickes said he can’t promise that as there are too many moving parts.

“I can commit that my officials and I will do what we can to actively move this file forward,” he said.

“Our whole system for controlling liquor … has not been updated in decades and would benefit from significant modernization,” Hickes said, adding that the government has begun reworking the legislation.

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(32) Comments:

  1. Posted by Look to Nwt on

    The NWT amended its liquor act a year ago to limit order sizes to 6 mikis or 200$

    In nunavut you can order 1000 mikis if u want. How does this make sense?

  2. Posted by Hard Liquor? on

    It’s the beer that is a problem in Iqaluit. Particularly in the downtown area, endless drunks and litter. Out on the city limit roads, throwing their trash out the window- drinking and driving.
    That part of our society needs fixing – hard liquor isn’t the only source of the problems.

    • Posted by Horseshoe on

      I don’t think it’s strictly the “beer” either. I’ve visited cities around the world were beer was sold at newspaper stands and you could drink it while walking down the street or at the public park. I didn’t notice any drunks or litter related to that.

    • Posted by Inuktituusuu on

      There is crowd of people drinking outside the drunk shelter every single night. The system is flawed.

      • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

        Sadly the reality is the hand sanitizers, Saturday night when I spent the night there, out of 17 available cots, there was easily 10 of them drinking Hand Sanitizers. Walk around town and sadly enough, you will see empty Hand Sanitizers everywhere.

      • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

        truth of the matter is, Hand sanitizers, 80% of the clients there are drinking Hand Sanitizers at the low barrier shelter, staff are aware of it but there is no rule in place to stop them, last week when I was there, out of 17 cots available, easily 10 of the clients were drinking Hand Sanitizers inside and outside. Sad but true

    • Posted by Neighborhood watch on

      Maybe we need to start a neighborhood watch in Lower base. The public drinking, fights, vandalism is non stop. I don’t understand why we are blaming hard liquor? I just see budwiser, and coors lights drinkers outside being a public nuisance.

      Kenny Bell is so out of touch with his voters that he has no idea of reality. There was a door to door petition being done by Ms. Redfern that got outright ignored by him. The petition highlighted the problems faced by residents of Lower Base which can all be traced back to the men’s shelter, wet shelter proposal, and the beer and wine store. No one wants to admit they are all linked and one directly affects the other. Our city is getting ugly and become a cesspool of drinking and drug use. It is no wonder so many long term residents are leaving town this summer, Inuk and qalluna leaving.

    • Posted by Hard Liquor? on

      Looking at the latest litter, it’s hand sanitizer that is being consumed now.

  3. Posted by DingDong on

    Is there an election in the offing or something? Not so long ago, the Mayor was pushing for easier access to alcohol.

    • Posted by IILAA on

      and so it seems the bell is ringing, ding dong you hit the mark.
      some like this one is long overdue but some like the recent news is certainly uncalled for during the times of horror to be adding to the misery.

  4. Posted by Health vs Criminal on

    B.C. is pleading that addiction/dependence on substance be recognized as a health related versus a criminal related thing. Deaths from overdoses and treatment/prevention could be more readily dealt with if that were the rule.

    • Posted by Different Context on

      In BC I believe the issue is related to drugs being criminalized. Alcohol isn’t illegal so there isn’t really an analogy here. If you commit a crime while drunk you still committed a crime. It’s not the alcohol that you are being charged for it is what you did while drinking.

  5. Posted by Beer patron on

    Hard liquor isn’t sold at the beer and wine store, good try though Mayor Bell. 99% of the public drunkenness, going on, even this weekend is from people openly consuming beer. Take your lunch walks from the new Council office and you will clearly see the source of the RCMP calls.

    I have to call the RCMP dozens of times daily about people consuming alcohol in public, then becoming loud, belligerent and fighting at all hours of the day or night. None of these people are my neighbors, with the exception of the soon to be wet shelter, I am sure I will be all too familiar with their faces soon.

  6. Posted by SJW on

    Kenny Bell is nothing more then a social justice warrior. I thought he quit social media? Newsflash Kenny, you have no idea what the cause is, you are so far removed from the areas affected. What’s next? Let’s remove flags because they are symbols of colonizers?

    • Posted by Flavor OF The Day Kenny Kenny Kenny on

      Totally agree with you on this one. Kenny had every opportunity to bring this to the Government’s, RCMP and the Media’s attention when he worked for the GN in the department that issued these permits.
      No doubt every community has problems especially when in comes to alcohol , and drugs. but look at the whole picture, and not just what’s going to get your picture in the papers.
      I truly hope he does not seek re-election.

  7. Posted by shoot the messanger on

    Why are you all beating up on Kenny? He has hit the nail on the head. NEWS FLASH: there’s more to Nunavut than just Iqaluit! I know it may be hard to believe, but it’s true.

    KB is 100% right that the GN needs to do something about the hard alcohol flowing in to many communities. Yes people have a right to restock their bar or sealift a years worth of wine, but if someone orders 12, 24, or 36 bottles of one brand of rye or vodka, then the alarm bells should be going off. It’s not that hard to recognize a pattern. Cmon George, take action.

    • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

      He also need to address people and that is a lots of people are drinking Hand Sanitizers, with the pandemic, hand sanitizers are everywhere and easily accessible now that is creating a big problem all over

  8. Posted by Duffman on

    I find it interesting that our mayor and former employee of the GN department of finance liquor section who worked on getting the beer and wine store is trying to deflect the real issue of 24 cans of beer per day or 4 bottles of wine per day has negatively impacted Iqaluit.
    Opening the beer and wine store without any real plans for treatment centres or programs.
    Since the opening of the beer and wine store we have seen more public drunkenness, more calls for the rcmp, we can’t even go to the store without some sort of incident with someone drunk.
    People drinking behind the beer and wine store, by the beach and behind northmart.
    It might be 5-10% of the people that cause these problems but that is still too high, something needs to be done by the GN and I hope during the election for mla the candidates will talk about all these problems with the beer and wine store.
    Lower the amount at least to something like 12 cans and two bottles of wine, no one needs to drink that much in a day. So unhealthy.

    • Posted by Lori on

      A lot of functioning alcoholics here and it’s normalized, incredibly unhealthy, I agree more needs to be done by the GN, city, it’s crazy how we continue on this path and think it’s ok.

  9. Posted by Oscare on


    • Posted by BigBird on

      STOP YELLING!! If there is no programs in place for addictions no treatment centres, just a beer and wine store then as a society we should limit the access to alcohol not make it easier, until we have the tools to help these people.
      If you stop thinking of just yourself but as a community as a society it would help.

    • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

      That is very true, with all that has been done to us by the dominant sociality, is having long term effect on us and there is no treatment or help for that matter what so ever.

  10. Posted by Old Timer on

    This is what you guys, girls get when u voted for him .

  11. Posted by Your IT guy on

    Addiction is a sickness. Treatment centers in more hamlets, social support programs, health workers are the help… Repair root causes of depression and self worth are the cure.

    • Posted by Johann Hari might say on

      I would offer up that much of our modern malaise is related to a lack of meaningful work and felt sense of purpose in life, which is often found in our connection to community and our sense that we are contributing something important to those around us and that we have important roles in life.

      more of it is related to simply not

  12. Posted by Umingmak on

    Let me get this straight.

    A white guy is pushing an Inuit minister to enforce colonialist liquor restrictions?

    Sounds a little like white privilege to me.

    • Posted by Mimicry is the new you on

      Also sounds like you are parroting ideas you don’t understand.

    • Posted by Identity Politics on

      What does their race have to do with anything? Engage with the issue, not the amount of melanin in their skin.

      • Posted by Empty Vessel on

        People who lack the ability to engage in a given issue meaningfully will often find entry into a discussion by mimicking popular ideas. If forced it is almost certain they would be unable to explain what those mean. Still, they are confident forwarding a given position because they have heard it uttered enough times and by enough people and have seen the positive reaction it typically elicits to feel safe that they must be right, and that they too will get that reaction.

  13. Posted by What happened? on

    What happened to the idea that if people broke the rules of public intoxication or so any alcohol related issues that they would be banned from buying alcohol? If they get into trouble with the police or constantly caught drinking in public, they should be banned from buying alcohol for a period of time

  14. Posted by Qikiqtaalummiu on

    when is the by=elections?

  15. Posted by Qikiqtaalummiu on

    when is the by -elections?

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