Nunavut mayors call for more social supports to accompany alcohol sales

Hamlets don’t have support system to cope with alcohol’s negative effects, Kugluktuk mayor says

Kugluktuk’s mayor, Simon Kuliktana, says the hamlet has filed an application with the Government of Nunavut to hold another plebiscite on whether to introduce tighter alcohol restrictions. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Residents of Kugluktuk could see more alcohol-related restrictions in the new year if an upcoming plebiscite is successful.

Three years after the last vote resulted in restrictions being loosened, the hamlet has filed to have another plebiscite in hopes of getting some restrictions back.

Mayor Simon Kuliktana said easing the restrictions in 2018 has had a negative impact on residents.

“The community feels it and sees it every day,” Kuliktana said in an interview.

He said the local RCMP gets more night-time calls than ever, more intoxicated people are seen around town than before and there’s more bootlegging.

On top of this, Kuliktana said there aren’t enough mental health or addiction resources in town and the Government of Nunavut needs to start recognizing the needs.

“Alcohol is causing all these negative effects and we don’t have the support system for mental health to be able to cope with it.”

There are currently three systems for liquor restrictions in Nunavut: committee, prohibition and unrestricted.

Kugluktuk is currently unrestricted, meaning there are no limits on bringing liquor into the community except for the liquor laws that apply across Nunavut.

The hamlet used to be under the committee system — which it is looking to go back to — meaning elected members of an alcohol education committee would decide how much liquor could be brought in and have the power to approve or refuse community members’ requests.

Kuliktana said there were pros and cons to the committee system.

For example, some people who were approved to bring in alcohol did things which led to the RCMP having to deal with them.

He said an effective part of the system was being able to restrict certain people’s access to alcohol for a set period of time, then allowing them to order again later on.

Kuliktana said he also had different expectations for the alcohol education committee than what turned out in reality.

“I was hoping there would be more of an education component, but there was not,” he said.

He was not the only mayor to share this concern about the education committee system at the last day of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities’ annual general meeting on Wednesday.

Mayors from 16 Nunavut communities gathered at the Aqsarniit hotel in Iqaluit for the Nunavut Association of Municipalities’ three-day annual general meeting Nov. 8-10. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

During a question-and-answer period with the Department of Finance, multiple community leaders said the education component of the alcohol education committee was lacking, despite it being in the name.

Jo-Anne Falkiner, the department’s corporate policy director, agreed the committees are misnamed.

She explained the liquor laws say the alcohol education committees must deal with applications to bring alcohol into the community and they may provide education, but it isn’t mandatory.

In practice, she agreed the committees aren’t effective at giving education on alcohol use since most members aren’t trained educators.

Falkiner said being on the committees is difficult for more personal reasons as well.

“They’re making decisions on whether or not their friends, family members and community members can or cannot access alcohol,” she said.

“It gets unpleasant.”

Another concern heard in the meeting was irregular flight patterns causing legal alcohol orders to stockpile at cargo stations before all coming in at once, essentially in illegal amounts.

Cambridge Bay Mayor Angulalik Pedersen asked whether it was possible to reduce the 14-day notice hamlets need to give residents before placing two-week bans on alcohol — which they’re allowed to do three times per year.

“The 14-day notice defeats the entire purpose of the ban because everyone stocks up and sells illegally during those two weeks,” Pedersen said.

Falkiner said she would consider the concern, but without the 14-day notice, there is the risk of alcohol being ordered, then being illegal by the time it arrives if a ban is quickly imposed.

Falkiner told the group she couldn’t commit to any changes since the GN is in caretaker mode until the next government is chosen and the department has a new minister.

For Kugluktuk, this means its application to hold a plebiscite will not be approved or denied until the end of November at the earliest.

Falkiner estimated the plebiscite could happen in January or February if approved.

For the restrictions to be changed, a 60 per cent vote is needed, according to Elections Nunavut.

In the last plebiscite in Kugluktuk, 60.1 per cent of voted for fewer restrictions.

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(24) Comments:

  1. Posted by I AGREE on

    There is a big gap of no support between protocols of alcohol use and children, elders and moms. This is really the best for all inuits’ safety and the safe use of alcohl. I pray you get support, because you’ve got mine. Thank you, Mr. Kuliktana.

  2. Posted by Kugluktuk Resident on

    I am very hopeful that the community will see sense and return to a more controlled method of importing alcohol. The past few years have shown that a pretty large portion of the population have serious issues with handling ready access to alcohol. Unfortunately the responsible majority have to suffer the consequences brought on by the unruly minority.

    Now, if only there was a way to reduce /control the amount of other cannabis and other drugs entering the community.

  3. Posted by Ban it no matter what on

    For any community that’s discussing the negative effects of alcohol as is evident in this article, they should ban alcohol period. No mental health services, no government programs , nothing is going to help ease the negative behaviour of alcohol in such communities. Yes, banning alcohol is not acceptable as a solution to the bad behaviours we are living with. It is said that people will get alcohol anyway , like illegally. Bootleggers galore. So ban it anyway, let people do what people will do with trying to get it. I bit the RCMP would rather police the bootleg situation, then a free for all out of control legal sales and misery as allowed to happen with legal sales. It ridiculous for trouble communities to expect that a program is going to help. It’s in the people to not being able to handle it without misery. Mayors of northern communities at least recognize this reality, ban it, and you done your part. Or should I say people of the community. Vote for the good of your community reality.

    • Posted by Creating a void on

      Creating a void for a black market isn’t any better. More crime rates and it has been proven time and time again.

      Logically, you should’ve had programs in place already to help cope with addictions, assisting the population with a safe haven, etc. You have to be ready for things like this, in a position they’re in, before you stomp a big step like this.

      Leadership 101

      • Posted by Disagree on

        Nay, this is 2021, not 1400 when European came. If you can’t handle booze , you shouldn’t have a right to it. That being said: laws ! Programs such as you are suggesting are made by people for people that can’t behave without such laws and programs. The people that are behaved well and enjoying their drink , and cause no problems to their neighbors or family, these people don’t even need the laws and programs. For the out of line few , and some communities have a majority! The only way is to legislate them away from that which is causing their problem. If illegal activities come about as a consequence, then policing must be enforced with stricter laws and program that makes it harder and harder to get to the source of bad behaviour. Don’t let them have it by one law, and expect another law and program will make it ok, it’s not going to work.

  4. Posted by We all have rights on

    Let’s share the vote with other parts of the country, and ask another community in another part of the country, what do they think of northern communities in the year 2021, having mayor going public in a newspaper about the trouble caused by alcohol in his community. Yes , ask a same size community that has been using alcohol for centuries , oh, yes some trouble, but nothing compared to the hamlets in north, yes ask that other community what they think about if alcohol should be outlawed among these norther communities where death, and destruction rules the day. Where family’s are destroyed, kids are hungry. Yes mr mayors or ms or mrs , get some feedback from counter parts. Face it some people can’t use alcohol without Hugh misery.

  5. Posted by Umingmak on

    The people have already voted and made their voices heard. Politicians can’t just keep putting out polls on the same things over and over until they get their way.

    Alcohol restrictions are pure colonialism. Anyone supporting this nonsense is working against his or her own people.

    • Posted by If you have to vote for it , you don’t need it on

      This is 2021, not the 1800. Alcohol restrictions are pure colonialism? So how come ? Why you have to vote to get it, is there a problem? What is the problem? The only people with this issue is the people themselves. There’s no law in this country prevents alcohol from entering communities in the north. It’s the law of the community itself? Why? You tell me why you have to vote to get alcohol. I don’t and never in my life had to vote for alcohol. And never will Why do you have you have to vote.? Who is telling you, that you have to vote?

      • Posted by Don’t overthink this on

        Don’t overestimate the thought processes that went into Umingmak’s superficial commentary. It is likely as simple as “restrictions bad” because “I like alcohol” therefore lets call it “colonialism” because “colonialism bad” and that might make us rethink “restrictions” (of course it won’t).

    • Posted by Biscuit on

      Was there even any alcohol use in the Arctic before European colonialism?

  6. Posted by Misleading on

    Such a misleading headline. Two communties oppose unrestricted alcohol. Several others thought the “education” aspect of AEC wasn’t working. Yet the supposed reporter implies all of the mayors oppose unrestricted access.

    • Posted by Misleading to a better life on

      It’s not so misleading as you may think. In the heart and soul of all mayors in Nunavut and other northern communities, alcohol is not in a good relationship with people. Alcohol is a victim of an abusive relationship. Alcohol try’s hard to be not abused, but the users just keeps on abusing. If alcohol was a person, alcohol would be in court charging the abuser with some serious crimes, if alcohol was a woman, alcohol would spent much of its time in a women’s shelter. Alcohol would be in the hospital injured from the abuser, over and over. I known alcohol for a long time, it’s an innocent substance that is kind and gentle. It offers so much pleasure and healthy interactions. Dear alcohol just seems to run into abuser after abuser, and alcohol gets all the blame. Alcohol even gets blamed for having kids go hungry. Can you image an innocent substance, just sitting there, and blamed for kids going hungry, and being abuse. Now let’s all vote on who is the problem, alcohol or the people.

      • Posted by Misleading on

        I wasn’t implying alcohol is good. I was merely trying to point out that the reporter needs to report accurately. With a headline like that, it was implicit that all of the mayors have that view.

  7. Posted by JUSTIN MERRITT on

    The Hamlet of Rankin Inlet will soon have beer and wine sales and it is legal to import
    hard liquor (rye rum etc.) , Our community in the past 30 years has not wanted liquor restrictions or an alcohol committee , what we have pressed for many times as council is for a limit on the amount of hard liquor allowed to be imported into our community , we have pressed this issue many times while meeting with GN Ministers and by letters. The GN and Minister responsible for this has basically ignored our calls , excuses like we will look into this or a law like this will disrupt those who order liquor through sealift . Who cares about a few residents who do this , especially with hard liquor which can easily be flown in.
    A major problem in Rankin is bootlegging , to adults and kids , a limit on hard liquor imports could restrict this greatly , but the GN has little concern for this issue, by avoiding a simple fix on this issue they are encouraging , abetting and complicit in the bootlegging trade in our community , The local RCMP are doing there best and know the large amounts of hard liquor being brought into our community by their hands are tied , Iqaluit Council has also tried to reach a solution with the GN , BUT LITTLE SUCCESS. To the new Legislature , fix this problem quickly as every accident and death caused by bootlegging make you as guilty as the bootleggers.

    • Posted by DO IT YOURSELF on

      If that’s what Rankin wants, then do a plebiscite, get an AEC, and limit the amount of hard liquor that comes in. Simple as that. Stop blaming everybody else, and just do it.

      • Posted by Yes just do it on

        Yes why don’t people just get on with it in life. Readers of news, listeners of news, get tired of hearing about this community and that community’s issue with booze. Let them have it , the government should override all votes and make it a law, not to have booze sales. All communities must make booze available to the drinking age population, period. The consequences are the communities own .Get this continuous rant out of people’s lives. For many of us that have used alcohol all our life, it’s so degrading to be hearing about those foolish bud no doubt serious cries from people in this day and age about should we or should we not.

  8. Posted by With held on

    I see first hand, in Coppermine, so many many poor people, yet they can afford all the booze they can. People on cargo days fill there packsacks up with full cases of mickeys to sell. Just so they can have a bit of money to order more booze and forget about food. It has gone out of control with murders and people dying of alcohol poisoning. It has become too rampant and has overwhelmed the police cells each and every time alcohol cargo is brought in , enough booze to start a liquor store most often when several pallets of booze gets off for the community at least twice a week. Since the plebiscite to allow booze into town , the community has seen more deaths than the coronavirus . Big fat period. There will and have never will be an alcohol education school to teach individuals on how to rightfully consume booze.Nunavut is like a third world country due to the alcoholics and bootleggers controlling the territory

  9. Posted by BW store on

    Would be good to ban liquor like vodka and only let beer and wine and sell it at coop and northern

  10. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    Oh, you folks in Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay haven’t seen the worse of it yet.
    Think the beer and wine stores are going to lower the abuse and misuse in your towns or affect the bootleggers?? In your dreams.
    Ask the people of Iqaluit what it has done to them. Not the politicians, but the people on the street.
    Good luck to you all.

  11. Posted by S on

    If alcohol is to be banned, then it best be banned for good reasons. Anecdotes and varying levels of righteousness doesn’t cut. What is the empirical evidence to suppott alcohol abuse as the cause of strife; what is the empirical evidence to justify a ban?

    If an alcohol ban is warranted based on formal medical, justice and social outcomes, then it must be a total ban. Zero tolerance. No exceptions to the zero tolerance mandate.

    If a complete ban is justified (against all human rights and ethical adult freedom expectations) then the enforcement must be harsh and thorough. Anything else is theatre.

  12. Posted by Next door Neighbors on

    I live in a neighboring community and always felt that our plebiscites allowing unrestricted drinking was a cornerstone for our community. Leave us alone was my feeling. I have always disliked the amount of boot legging and drugging was bad for our town. I never had a solution and I don’t think i ever heard of a perfect solution. I do know the hurt to our society is mounting and we are no longer fully equal to other communities because of being a party town so people have a lot of absences due or partially due to drinking. There is a creeping negative attitude among some people not the “can do” attitude of years gone by, to many young people in the justice system. Maybe instead of an education Committee some hard rules around ordering and quantities can help improve this issue. I never felt that people having power over what can be ordered by so and so is good. Maybe it works in special circumstances but sound like the old interdict lists of the 70,s one thing for sure its complex and needs to have more helpful options that those that exist.

  13. Posted by CamBay Ban Coming? on

    I’d like to know what Acting Mayor Pedersen is planning, asking about reducing the notice hamlets give residents before placing a ban on alcohol. Planning on a snap ban over Christmas time or something there, Mr. Pedersen? That sure would be entertaining. I wonder how much a 60oz would go for then instead of the normal $300. $500? $800?

  14. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    A number of years ago, the DEA or Schools of Kugluktuk, allegedly, had a consultant investigate and report back on the status of FASD children in Kugluktuk.
    Has anyone heard what the results were and here a copy of the report is available to the public?

  15. Posted by Turn to her and say…. on

    Can you believe Nunavut spent 16 million spent on alcohol in 2019? Think of all the good things it could have been spent on, ie housing, food security, bills etc. What exactly does the Alcohol Education Committee do? Are they just a ghost committee? If an individual is ordering alcohol by the case every second week, is unemployed, on Income Support, wouldn’t that person need to go through the alcohol committee? I’m assuming they would be referred to a treatment centre and RCMP or would the Alcohol Committe turn a blind eye. Do the AC meet regularly with Dept of Justice, RCMP, social groups etc?

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