Kugluktuk opts for alcohol restrictions in low-turnout vote

38 per cent plebiscite turnout ‘considerably lower’ than usual for hamlet, says elections officer

Kugluktuk will once again restrict alcohol in the hamlet after 66 per cent of voters voted to change their regulatory system at Monday’s plebiscite in the Community Hall. Shannon Case, who started the petition to prompt the plebiscite, said she’s in “awe” of the results. “I’m so happy,” she said. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Madalyn Howitt

Despite a lower than usual turnout by voters, Shannon Case is celebrating after learning her hometown of Kugluktuk will once again restrict access to alcohol.

“We made the change and I am so excited and so happy. I can cry,” said Case, who started the petition that prompted Monday’s plebiscite in the hamlet of 1,400 residents.

“I’m just so in awe,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

After 38 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in Monday’s plebiscite, Elections Nunavut announced Kugluktuk will officially return to a restricted system for accessing alcohol later this year — a reversal of course, after voting three years ago to remove restrictions.

By the time the poll closed, 287 votes were cast and 66 per cent of voters opted to put restrictions back on alcohol sales, exceeding the required threshold of 60 per cent.

The change was celebrated by many residents on social media, but Nunavut’s chief electoral officer Dustin Fredlund said Monday’s turnout was unusually small compared to previous plebiscites in the hamlet.

“For Kugluktuk, it’s low. In 2018, it was 68 per cent turnout. In 2013 (when they voted to keep the community dry) it was 65 per cent turnout,” Fredlund said. “So 38 per cent is considerably lower for Kugluktuk.”

Those statistics are also on par with turnout for Kugluktuk’s other votes — both the 2019 municipal election and 2021 territorial election drew roughly 60 per cent of voters to the polls.

However, this year’s plebiscite turnout isn’t unusual when compared to other Nunavut communities, Fredlund said.

“About a quarter of them are under the 40 per cent range. So it’s not unheard of,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Nadene McMenemy said she has been hearing feedback from residents and overall the response to the results has been positive.

“The feeling in the community and the feedback that I’ve seen, people are quite happy with the outcome,” she said.

McMenemy said she agrees the 38 per cent turnout of eligible voters is “a wee bit lower” than usual, but believes recent good weather could be a contributing factor to why fewer voters came out than in past plebiscites.

“It’s been absolutely beautiful here. People are going out to their cabins and everything,” she said.

McMenemy said protocol was followed, with Elections Nunavut and the Kugluktuk hamlet council providing information in advance for voters, including an evening information session held May 4 and advanced voting opportunities on May 9 prior to the final voting day May 16.

She said people could vote by mail-in ballot, mask requirements were lifted from voting stations, and “even incarcerated people were permitted to vote.”

“I myself did a blurb on the radio encouraging people just to get out and vote. That’s what your vote is, exercising your rights,” she said.

“Every opportunity was there to vote and this is what the public decided they wanted. So this is the next three years what will happen.”

McMenemy said the results mean the amount of alcohol individuals can purchase will be restricted. However, the hamlet will not reinstate an alcohol education committee, which it scrapped in 2018.

“That was clear on our petition. There was no committee, it was just a restriction on the amount of alcohol,” she said.

Once restrictions are in place, residents will only be able to purchase 1.775 litres of spirits and either 48 355-ml cans with eight per cent or lower alcohol content or 3.75 litres of wine every two weeks.

Case said she would have liked to see a higher turnout of voters “to ensure everyone’s voice was heard,” but the two-thirds majority who voted in favour of change is “a good indication that the community wanted this to pass.”

“I hope to see people in the community living a healthier lifestyle without abusing alcohol,” she said.

“It will improve the quality of life for youth in the community, hopefully lead to better attendance rates at schools and an overall healthier community.”

Weichien Chan, a spokesperson for Nunavut’s Finance Department, said it will take a few months before the restricted system takes effect in Kugluktuk.

 

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    In other words, 62% of eligible voters simply didn’t care.

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  2. Posted by TGC on

    It is hard to tell people that their drinking is becoming a problem. But thinking of the children and families we at times should do what is good for them over the partying life.

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    • Posted by Now they go hungry. on

      I have thought about them. This is my thoughts coming from someone raised around alcoholism. Now their parents can’t get access to alcohol as easily, but as I know from being raised around addicts, that is of no true concern. Because now they’ll switch to other means. They’ll hit up that bootlegger as long as there is money in their accounts. The kids will see less food on their tables because it now takes more money to keep the parents drunk. Kids are always secondary to severe addictions.

      We all know what the true solution is and we all know why it can’t be achieved up here. For the sake of the community I hope it does show positive results, but at the personal level I know some people out there are in for some of their most horrible times they’ve had yet.

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      • Posted by Addicts will satisfy their addiction on

        I agree with ‘Now they go hungry’. Addicts will always supply their addiction. Now they will resort to means that have higher costs and risks to supply their addiction. Whoever thought that it was ok to just stop booze is misguided. Their hearts are in the right place but this will not provide the solutions they want.

  3. Posted by Confused on

    The person who thought of this is very smart, drunks will not show up to vote for restrictions 😂

    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      Shows how unthinking they were. Had they voted and voted NO, this restriction proposal may not have been successful.

  4. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Here’s an idea. Ban the alcohol completely and have the GN give out free cannabis to people of legal age, basically a daily amount for each adult that wants it.
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    I’m thinking that violence and crime would both go way down.

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    • Posted by 867 on

      Daily use of cannabis leads to irreperable brain damage and can trigger severe mental health problems like schizophrenia. Horrible idea.

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      • Posted by Smells like BS on

        If the point is harm reduction, then it’s not a horrible idea at all.

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      • Posted by Truestory on

        Been smoking marijuana for 44 years now. I’m still sane. Not a schizophrenia. Most of the negative posts are a Fed Gov. propaganda. Marijuana was illegal because of the big drug companies were going to lose money. Marijuana has a lot of medical properties.

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        • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

          If you believe what you say to be true, why the anonymity? There is a lot of evidence about the dangerous consequences of weed and its misuse.

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          • Posted by Neighborhood on

            Hi Paul. You should try it better than booze or complaining about who can smoke legal weed. Both of you’d be so uplifted and happy.

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          • Posted by AnonYmouse on

            Paul, you have this habit of badgering people who say things you don’t like while opting to be anonymous.

            Why is this such an issue for you? To me, it seems quite irrelevant.

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            • Posted by John WP Murphy on

              And you are who?? Proves to me, one has no belief in their own opinion.

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            • Posted by John WP Murphy on

              I also believe that if one wants honesty and Openous, one must practice what they preach and not hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

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              • Posted by AnonYmouse on

                The only one preaching that is you, so I’m not sure what your point is.

                There are a lot of good reasons why people chose to comment anonymously, whether you can grasp any of those or not, or whether you are able to comprehend the differences between your circumstance and that of others tells us more about you than anything else.

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