Iqaluit safety committee hears concerns about public drunkenness

Residents struggling with alcohol abuse need more support, says Lower Base resident

A sign is displayed in the window of a home in Lower Base. Residents have taken to posting the signs to draw attention to their public safety concerns during the territorial election. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

This past summer has been the most unsafe in the past three years in Lower Base, a neighbourhood near downtown Iqaluit, says a business owner in the area, and more needs to be done to address the root causes of violence and substance use.

Jennifer Lindell, owner of the Jenn87 Hairstyling salon, spoke at the city’s public safety committee meeting Monday about the neighbourhood’s experience next to the IOL Beach, where people are often seen intoxicated in public and causing disturbances.

“In our area, what we’re doing is trying to keep the kids safe and let them live at least a half-normal life, even though normal to them is running in when they see a drunk person approach them,” she said.

The IOL Beach, owned by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, has had its problems over the years, often involving public drunkenness.

“We need to help these people get better,” Lindell said.

Mayor Kenny Bell, the safety committee’s chairperson, said residents have complained to the city about general violence, people having sex on the beach, defecating in public and trying to break into people’s homes.

Coun. Sheila Flaherty said she has seen fires and people fighting.

The complaints have spurred QIA and RCMP to have officers and staff members patrolling the area on foot in the summer.

The RCMP did an extra 36 hours of patrolling between August and September and had a mental health professional join a few patrols, Bell said.

But Lindell said that more policing can’t be the only fix.

“The violence that we see is people with problems, people with trauma, and we need to get to the root cause of that,” Lindell said.

Bell agreed.

“These people that are partying down there are our most marginalized citizens, unfortunately,” Bell said in an interview, adding that there must be better housing and mental health supports available.

Deputy Mayor Solomon Awa agreed, saying he recently spoke with an elder about the situation, who said the problems on the beach are a product of people not taking care of their children and the community not having the capacity to help them.

Later, committee members discussed potential solutions, such as requesting that the beer and wine store post signs asking people not to drink in public, having brighter street lights near the beach area, involving more mental health workers during foot patrols and opening a safe consumption site or sobering centre.

Flaherty said the Government of Nunavut also has a role to play because it owns and operates the beer and wine store.

“There’s a sentiment … that the beer and wine store has a causal effect on the ugliness that happens in this area,” she said.

Lindell suggested that governments use on-the-land programs to help struggling with alcohol abuse.

“As we all know, a lot of us spend our time on the land, and the land is healing,” Lindell said.

“Our safety matters” signs were placed beneath the windshield wipers of cars parked next to the firehall on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Downtown residents have taken to posting the signs to draw attention to their public safety concerns during the territorial election.
(Photo by David Venn)

The meeting happened after orange “our safety matters” signs cropped up in homes, businesses, cars and on poles in Iqaluit, from Lower Base to the Upper Plateau.

Similarly, a crate with “safety 1st” spray-painted on it was recently dropped at the city’s Four Corners. Bell said that he asked city staff to remove it because it was ugly and distracted residents from territorial election campaign signs nearby.

Flaherty, who is one of the residents with a sign on her home, said the campaign aims to make the neighbourhood’s public safety concerns an issue in the territorial election.

“It’s prime time to talk about public safety,” Flaherty said.

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(42) Comments:

  1. Posted by GerryD on

    I live in a rural hub community in Alaska – not unlike Iqaluit. Our community had a go at having a liquor store and it could just not work. It got to the point where people could not go out in public areas, stores due to the amount of public intoxication. Death rates skyrocketed. The town voted to do away with the store but kept the allowance for a few restaurants to serve alcohol – with meals and not to be taken out of the establishment. This has worked so much better though of course not perfect. The one restaurant, so far, has been well and responsibly run. The former store – privately owned – could have done better, too, but it allows people to have a drink but not taking it out into the streets since it must be consumed on site. It seems to be an acceptable compromise for the community so far – for a few years – though there are, of course, who want it fully open or fully closed.

    • Posted by George on

      Will there are selfish people who just think about themselves and want a liquor store for their own use, never mind the effects on the communities and society.
      Unfortunately the big push the have this beer and wine store came from these individuals who just want to be able to get their alcohol in their own interests and not that if the community.
      No treatment centre, no support, but hey, let’s get a beer and wine store anyway!
      The cart before the horse. Too many functioning alcoholics in positions of power that decides these idiotic priorities. How fast the GN went from talking about opening a beer and wine store to the day the doors open was faster than light speed for the GN, that says a lot when the GN can’t figure out other badly needed infrastructure.

      • Posted by Redbrew1 on

        So the majority must give up their right to a normal life and sensible alcohol consumption in a drawer somewhere so that those that have a problem can continue to drain family resources at bootlegger prices. Oh Canada.

        • Posted by BeerDrinkerCustomer on

          What give the right to a qablunaq beer store worker to tell people at northmart that i sell the beer i buy and drink ? Is every one buying alchool oresume a bootleger? This whute guy should get fire and i will complaint.thats harrasment.people have to know

  2. Posted by Finally on

    Finally, mayor bell has refrained from blaming others for the problems and has taken a step in the right direction. Hopefully he will keep it up. The blame game has not gotten him very far.

  3. Posted by Henri Belcour on

    The only solution is individual responsibility which is not changing any time soon. I see the same drinkers going to the beer store every day. Walking or by cab. What else do they have to do? Not much I guess. This town is awash is booze. Just the people who have some cash are not down at the beach.

  4. Posted by Faith on

    A lot of us has seen a increase in public drunkenness, it’s getting worse and we can’t go to the stores without someone drinking or arguing and fighting in front of the stores. With all of this happening why is the beer and wine store still selling 24 beers or 4 bottles of wine per day for individuals? That is really not healthy if a person has to buy that much per day.
    At least put it back to when it was 12 beers or 2 bottles per day when it first opened.

    Also I don’t understand why the GN and the Iqaluit MLAs have not been dealing with this issue, where have they been? Something needs to be done.
    Maybe we too should go back to just having it in the restaurants, there’s just no support for addiction or mental health care, the experiment for drinking isn’t working without any real programs or treatment/healing facilities.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      How about a Weekly limit instead of a daily limit. that way people can decide if they want to buy their weekly limit all at once or go each day and get a few beers. technology should be able to keep track since we are all registered anyway. And each week starts fresh on the Tuesday.

      • Posted by KUUJJUAMIUK on

        In spring of 2020 , the health board , put a limit on beer and wine in kuujjua .people were using other peoples names and a mickey went from $60 to $120. people will get their fix in one form or another , prohibition dos nt work.

        • Posted by Iqalumiuk on

          Having a beer and wine store doesn’t work either, something definitely needs to be done, our politicians have been ignoring this for far too long.

  5. Posted by Ugly is in the eyes of the Beholder on

    “Bell said that he asked city staff to remove it [the box with the sign on it] because it was ugly and distracted residents from territorial election campaign signs nearby.”
    Mayor Bell, you were the one interfering with the territorial election. That ugly box was a reminder of the ugly problem that should be the highest priority in the election and in the time after the vote.
    Put the box back.
    Leave the box there as a constant reminder until the problem is solved.

  6. Posted by Lower Base Resident on

    Good to see politicians finally getting behind the Ladies of Lower Base after dismissing them and their concerns for the last couple of years.

    As for the councillors who dismissed their concerns then and still do out of ego … we see you.
    And we noticed you only care about your own family.

  7. Posted by Pedestrian Me on

    “committee members discussed potential solutions, such as requesting that the beer and wine store post signs asking people not to drink in public”

    I am interested in the group psychology that leads an idea like this not merely to surface, but to make its way through a committee with so little friction it becomes offered up to the public as if it were something serious, thoughtful and meaningful.

  8. Posted by Frodo’s parka on

    This reminds me of: “are guns the problem, or are people the problem”. Our legislators have passed a lot of laws, and gun violence is actually up. Seems that they only took guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens. Probably will be the same way with booze. Those that want it will still get it, and law abiding citizens, the ones that don’t create problems, will no longer be able to have a beer and watch that hockey game. It’s punishment for everyone for the actions of the few instead of punishment for the few. The problem still persists, but no one has a better answer.

    • Posted by sealbone on

      Unfortunately the ‘few’ is in the hundreds, I believe

      • Posted by Frodo’s parka on

        How did we become a society where the accountable are not held to account? No, let’s blame society instead. Let’s take away the liberties of everyone rather than show those responsible that their behaviour is not ok, and that there will be consequences for their actions. From what I’m reading here, the North cannot do what the South can.

    • Posted by Colin on

      It is much more than just the few, this is a huge problem, you can alway order your alcohol if it’s that important for you, the few in this issue are the ones that want to be able to buy their alcohol easier thinking of themselves instead of the society.
      The few of you are just looking out for yourselves and don’t care of the huge problem that this beer and wine store is doing to this community and the surrounding communities.
      Many broken homes, people getting hurt or killed, sexual assaults, kids going hungry and many more.

      Stop thinking of yourself!

  9. Posted by MARS on

    What if I told you that a treatment centre won’t work for the majority of these marginalized citizens?

    What if I told you that the community as a whole doesn’t want to help these marginalized citizens but simply wants them gone?

    Perhaps it is time to get creative and if we can marginalize the unvaccinated throughout this country, why can we not marginalize problematic alcoholics from purchasing alcohol?

    Food for thought. I don’t personally subscribe to any of these measures but the status quo is not working.

  10. Posted by Mother/grandmother on

    If we had a homeless shelters open all day and not just at night time for both women and men that would help alot with issues we have today. The shelters can proved things for them to do like counseling, learn how to sew, basic cooking classes, help them to go back to school, elder sessions, go on land/hunting, kamutik/tool making or give other options for them to keep them busy instead of being out there with nothing to do but drink with no where to go. Maybe if we help them with these issues instead of complaining about it and doing nothing it would help them ? They need help just like us but no one really is going to the roots of these problems. Let’s help them to get better just like us when we need help we find help or help find us but no one sees to be finding any help for them. We as a community we should help them as they are apart of our community.

    • Posted by Mother/Grandmother too on

      I read that the new men shelter doesn’t kick out the men like the old shelter I do not know how many services the men shelter offers these men but it would make sense that the shelter and other organizations deliver programs to these high risk people.

      • Posted by Programming on

        Yes, it is one of the ways. Include education, training, counselling – direct, indirect, parenting, healing, upgrading and informative vignettes on film, audio, video about cultural changes, ways to help others, self, choices on lifestyle, sinking, alcohol, addictions, children to be strong… Health, social services, education, Justice, where are you?

    • Posted by Umm on

      Since when did they start closing? Other then during COVID lockdowns the men’s shelter has been open day and night for years now. Only the damp shelter is closed during the daytime.

  11. Posted by All of the North on

    This is not just an Iqaluit problem it is a problem across the north. Instead of playing the blame game try and look at the problem from a reconciliation perspective. These individuals are struggling with traumas from colonialism

    • Posted by Scapegoat on

      No, just stop with the generational / colonization stuff. That is always the end all argument used in the North. If these adults cannot limit themselves and use trauma and mental health as an excuse they need to be institutionalized and not walking around the streets homeless. In 300 years are you still going to blame colonization? If we continue to treat adults like toddlers who can’t think for themselves this problem will never go away.

      Hold people accountable for their actions, intoxication is not forced upon anyone. Does someone force people to consume alcohol and purchase it? It is a 100% voluntary and conscious decision of the individual. Blaming alcohol, as others said is like blaming a bullet for killing someone. If we banned all “weapons” “alcohol” and “drugs” none of the societal outcomes of those go away. People will still find alternatives. You can kill a person with a rock, so lets ban all rocks?

      The system fails people who need mental health facilities to cope with their incapacities. We have children having children constantly perpetuating the circle of uneducated people with poor self control. They never grow up and act on their urges, and do whatever gives them instant self gratification. Newsflash, alcoholism is a problem everywhere, Nunavut has to way to deal with it other then throw people in jail for a few months.

  12. Posted by Thank You on

    A huge Thank you to the ladies organizing this and bringing this concerns up. This has been ongoing now for YEARS. When there was public outcry over the damp shelter returning to lower base, people were mocking the residents and families dealing with this on a daily basis.

    I am a former resident of Lower base who finally moved and left the area and territory behind me. Thanks for the overinflated housing market caused by the GN and Northview, I was unable to switch my rental unit. Being forced to live behind the shelter has given me trauma I cannot recover from. I was diagnosed with PTSD from the attacks, harassment, and violent acts going on. When word was out of them trying to move the damp shelter into the old men’s shelter building, I had no choice but to leave town, there is no availability anywhere else.

    Bylaw, RCMP and the board members of Uquutaq society were well aware of what was going on, and ignored it until there it got out of hand and there was someone who was hurt so bad required hospitalization. in Christmas 2019, there was an altercation on the shelters old parking lot, between two intoxicated individuals which resulted in one of their deaths.

    When the beer and wine store opened the rate of crime, and violence escalated in lower base. Tuesday is the worst day for any violence and intoxication in the area, and no surprise its the first day the beer and wine store reopens after being closed. Is anyone really surprised that the area within walking distance of the store is experience such a high level of violent crime?

  13. Posted by Seven Eleven on

    Lower base is frowned upon, just like the graveyard area. If the beer and wine store was located at road to nowhere, or the plateau all those who mock the rest of town would get a real taste of what it’s like. In all seriousness, why have just one centralized place for alcohol that is clearly not able to handle to volume of patrons. There is barely parking for 6 cars. How long until they open a satellite store? The demand is definitely there for another building providing the same service. How about people in Apex? How is it fair for them to have the beer and wine store where it is? The current location is by far not central and easily accessible, except for those who already were used to frequenting the beach for a party area.

  14. Posted by You know what? on

    You people in charge of the city. Sent the drunken back to their settlement and make sure they are not coming back to Iqaluit. Stop the homeless sacking up on the beach area. Keep them in jail until their next flight back to their home town. Make sure there is no one on the beach at least after 9 pm. Get extra security jobs just for the beach. There has been enough fires on that area. You might know what has to be done to better the families. Get tough on your jobs you people in charge of the city. And talk to other settlements people. Who needs escort if future escort would be sober enough to look after the sick. Assistant transportation officer in Iqaluit should know the people if the escort would be good for the patient. Instead saying yes! yes!. Do some evaluate family situation first, making sure the sick understand the risk and tell the sick not to be scared of the young if they wouldn’t go with the love one. Could they hire someone who would be willing to check all of those that needs to be looked at. It would cost to hire someone who can do the job. But, look whats happening with all those escorts and some do not even go back home at all. A lot of money is being wasted for those careless people. Do something!.

    • Posted by safety impacts all on

      Safety impacting Iqalummiut, boarding home patients and staff… The department of health needs to relook at their escort policies. We know it is not a one size fits all but, you need more inuit working at the boarding homes and hospital. You need assistants who can help those with mobility issues especially in Iqaluit so you don’t need as many escorts. The partiers take up so much space and cost so much money creating stress for the patients they are with as well everyone else in the boarding homes. Why do you need escorts in Iqaluit when it is a bilingual place? You just need to have more Inuit working in these homes. There are too many unnecessary escorts both in Iqaluit and the southern centres. Enough is enough, no more drinking in these places!

  15. Posted by self inflicted on

    People who wanted a cold one at home spoke for everyone; even those that cause their stress at home away from home. Are you feeling it? Those people that causes you lack of sleep is your answer to your needs at home.

    • Posted by B&w store didn’t do it on

      These problems existed before the b&w store and exist in communities that don’t even have a b&w store too. Only difference is the iqaluit bootleggers are now looking for other jobs

      • Posted by Shake yer head on

        Anyone who says the beer and wine store hasn’t contributed to the growing problems is either clueless or a donkey’s backside. You see some of those idiots the worst offenders mind you cracking a beer once they’d walk out the door. You see them drinking the brews openly as they walk or shall I dare say stumble and swagger through town. Open yer eyes. You can’t miss dem drunkards. Not a single enforcer in sight or worst yet they drive right by them even when they chugging and chucking. Not surprised its gotten worse with no enforcement whatsoever. Shameful is what it is. Everyone sees it. Yer lucky if all they do is drink. Theres a good number where drink leads to cussing, pissing, shitting or worse. I didnt see that sign but I can’t imagine it is uglier than the daily onslaught of the drunks and their ugly ways that we are all subjected to day in and day out. Absolutely something needs to be done. And to think that it took some ladies to speak up. Brave they are. Braver than any of the fools we have in office. Smarter too to boot. Maybe it is time to give those men a good kick up the backside. Do your job, if you know how. Now who to elect. Tough choices. Not because there is so many good ones. Who of them is prepared to follow through and do something, something proper something good. That’s the 4 million dollar question.

      • Posted by Think on

        The bootleggers did a better job of supplying our community with alcohol than the government.
        There was less violence and craziness when the bootleggers were in charge.
        Think about that for a second.

      • Posted by don’t sugar coat this on

        it wasn’t even nearly as bad as this. people weren’t getting stuck here by not going back to their communities.

  16. Posted by Security on

    The one thing not mentioned in any off the comments is the fact that it is illegal to drink in public. Meaning that more law enforcement should be assigned to this issue and when a person is drinking in public they lose there beer or wine that they have with them and their name is registered with the Beer and Wine store and their privileges be suspended for a specific period of time.
    The lower base has always been a bit of an eye sore for years with people dumping all kinds of stuff for some reason but that can easily be addressed.
    A portion of the profits from the beer and wine store and the cannabis store were supposed to be used for education purposed, there has not been any visual signs regarding drinking and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is lots of room in this city for bill boards of warning signs.
    This need to be an issue long ignored by the past government, Nunavut needs a change in leadership, someone who actually focuses on the issues that are killing the economy and the people of Nunavut. Government should be making the people who are supposed to enforce accountable. Provide the services needed to help people and things will change, keep the status quo and things can only get worse.

    • Posted by I agree on

      I agree with you, public drinking and public drunkenness is illegal but the law enforcement looks away most times and don’t want to deal with it, it’s part of their job but fail to act. This needs to be addressed.
      With the millions the Beer and Wine store is making, what is it being used for?

      I also agree we need leadership change and our Iqaluit MLAs that kept ignoring these serious issues should not be voted back, they do not have the best interest for our community.

      • Posted by report on

        They aren’t turning a blind eye. They literally don’t have room in the cells, and there are more severe things going on. Nunavut should realize they need to budget for more officers, because there genuinely aren’t enough here.

        • Posted by Maybe on

          Maybe not more officers but limiting how much you can buy at the beer and wine store would help, maybe not having the beer and wine store until there is a treatment/ addiction facility and a healing facility would make more sense, not more police, those funds should go into more programs and facilities instead, long term solution.

    • Posted by outraged on

      the beer and wine are not the issue here. its the people who are traumatized by reoccurring violence on a daily basis when they were growing up and now their children and grandchildren are reinforcing this violence. a vicious cycle. any or all people commenting from a european perspective and telling us not to blame colonization and residential schools does not know what kind of emotional baggage we have carried for generations. i have placed blame on any other person while getting drunk and stoned but when i became sober, i took the responsibility for my actions as being a violent drunk. when we see any person extremely intoxicated its because that individual is a lost soul who never had a person believe they were worth anything in their lives. once i became sober, i saw what a a hole i was not only to my family but the community and territory as a whole. everyone should not be judging those who are mentally unstable. for those who say it is time to get over the past, probably you are one of the reasons why we are acting out and reacting towards your judgmental ways. have a heart.

  17. Posted by Truestory on

    Bahahahahahaha. Worse than the early 70’s. Remember that era? Still a bunch of idiots running the show.

  18. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Iqaluit has become a dumping ground for every problematic citizen that the other communities no longer desire. From hardened former criminals recently released form federal and territorial institutions to those with significant mental health deficits who came here seeking assistance for the patchwork health care system to those who saw the city as a chance to better their lives only to fall through the cracks. To blame the issue on the beer and wine store is simplistic as there is whole host of factors driving this problem and yes I agree 100% that it is a problem.

    • Posted by Obviously on

      Yes obviously there is a whole host of factors but you cannot deny the beer and wine store is contributing in a large way to these problems, adding fuel to the fire.

  19. Posted by boris pasternak on

    sent them all to the the community of the former FM who got this going in the three regional centers…

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