Kugluktuk woman who prompted liquor plebiscite wants to see change

Community to vote Monday on whether to change its current unrestricted system

Kugluktuk residents who are eligible to vote will have the chance to decide at the May 16 plebiscite if they want to return to restricting alcohol in the community. Petitioner Shannon Case said she hopes restricting alcohol could help minimize the “bootlegging and violence” she says alcohol has led to in her hometown. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

By Madalyn Howitt

A Kugluktuk woman hoping to change local liquor rules says over the past three years she’s become worried about the impact alcohol is having in the hamlet.

“With this unrestricted amount of alcohol coming into our community, I’ve seen a lot of negative things happen,” said Shannon Case, who has circulated a petition calling for restrictions, in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

That’s why she shared the petition, which garnered 167 votes in the community of about 1,400 and prompted a vote to take place at the community hall May 16.

It will give residents a chance to choose whether to prohibit or restrict access to alcohol in the community, or keep alcohol sales unrestricted.

“I’d like to see change for our youth and people,” Case said.

“My only hope is that it can help minimize the bootlegging and the violence that comes along with the consumption of alcohol. I’ve done this also for the elders, as they want to see the change happen.”

Nunavut’s Liquor Act grants the territory’s 25 hamlets the right to determine how they want to regulate access to alcohol in their communities.

Currently, the hamlets are divided into three categories of alcohol regulation:

  • Unrestricted — Kugluktuk, Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Grise Fiord, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Taloyoak;
  • Restricted — Arctic Bay, Cape Dorset, Chesterfield Inlet, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Kimmirut, Naujaat, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Resolute Bay and Whale Cove;
  • Prohibited — Arviat, Coral Harbour, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Pangnirtung, Sanikiluaq.

If at least 60 per cent of voters in Kugluktuk vote “yes” and choose to switch to a restricted system, it would return the hamlet to its system from 2018, before residents voted to scrap its alcohol education committee and have no restrictions.

If restrictions were reimposed, it would mean residents could only purchase limited amounts of alcohol every two weeks: 1.775 litres of spirits, and either 48 cans of beer or liquor with no more than eight per cent alcohol content up to 355 millilitres each, or 3.75 litres of wine.

Dan Malleck, a professor of health sciences at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., said Nunavut’s system of allowing individual hamlets to determine how they want to regulate alcohol in their community is, historically in Canada, “not an unusual process.”

Malleck is the author of “Liquor and the Liberal State,” a book about the history of alcohol regulation and prohibition in Ontario and Canada.

He said in the 20th century it became more common for Indigenous communities to determine their own alcohol regulations, due to concerns about the effects of alcohol and as an expression of autonomy from colonialism.

Malleck said local option laws in Canada, passed in 1864, had given municipalities rights over licensing and to determine what their communities needed in terms of alcohol regulation.

“The rights of municipalities are not captured in the [Canadian] Constitution, so it does come down to what individual provinces allow their municipalities,” he said.

A municipality allowing drinking in public parks is another example of how individual communities may choose to regulate alcohol, he said, citing discussions currently being had in Calgary and Toronto.

“It continues to be the sort of thing where some liquor laws allow a certain amount of flexibility,” Malleck said.

Full prohibition, however, has historically been a challenge even for communities in regionally dispersed areas like Nunavut, with smuggling and homebrewing making regulation complicated.

“A prohibition on a legal source of alcohol can have the effect of creating illegal and possibly more dangerous forms of alcohol … so that’s the issue of effectiveness,” Malleck said.

“If it’s a remote community that’s hard to get into, it’s easier to manage prohibition, but fermentation is a natural process. You can’t escape fermentation. If you’ve got yeast in the air or bacteria, and you’ve got sugar, you can make alcohol.”

Communities in Nunavut can vote to change local liquor rules once every three years if a minimum of 20 residents sign a petition to the finance minister.

Since 2019, Kugaaruk, Sanikiluaq, Gjoa Haven, Baker Lake, Arviat and Coral Harbour have also held plebiscites, ultimately voting to maintain their respective regulatory systems as none achieved the required 60 per cent of votes to change.

Correction: This story has been updated to correctly reflect how much liquor a person in a restricted community is allowed to import on a biweekly basis.

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(22) Comments:

  1. Posted by Al Capone on

    Prohibition dos nt work , if someone wants it , someone will supply it.

  2. Posted by Medical travel on

    GN needs to stop giving free checked bags to medical travelers. In the dry communities, so much booze comes in because of this. Patients go south for medical travel, and come back to dry communities sometimes with hundreds of mickeys. Bootleggers know who is going out for medical travel and they coerce them into bringing back as many mickeys and 60s as possible and the police can’t do anything about it. This needs to end.

  3. Posted by How would… on

    How would restricting alcohol sales prevent bootlegging? Would that not give more power to the bootleggers?

    Focus on drinking responsibly! Stoners don’t smoke their whole ounce in one night, why are you drinking a litre of hard alcohol in one?

    • Posted by Strange illness on

      Many people, too many that is, have taken alcohol use to a new level of illness and inappropriate desperation. You see households who keep alcohol from each other. The wife has her own, the husband has his own stash. The son, the daughter,, even the grandparents are hiding theirs, not only from each other , but from other members of the family. It’s an illness like never seen before. Desperate times. Results of all this is police calls , injuries, death. Sorrowful living. Drinking is done in closet form, curtains closed, until the kick hits the shyness, then hell breaks loose. There needs to be a major intervention. This is a public health crisis and a threat to the joys of living. It goes on and on , and it’s getting worse. Then you have a treatment center put up, only to make people believe that it’s the way out, when in fact , it promotes even more drinking , and illness due to false hope. The authorities need to make a serious move, it’s for the health of all, think about the children.

  4. Posted by Frodo’s Parka on

    Only a bureaucrat would think a law would prevent alcohol consumption. Haven’t we learned anything? They brew alcohol in jail, for Pete’s sake. Geesh, I should run for city or something. what a joke.

  5. Posted by Rerun misery show on

    The world is sick and tired of news about alcohol in Inuit communities. Why not have a vote for all of Canada to get a chance to say no , never ever again to alcohol in Inuit communities. Same old story. Get the cost of all the trouble and show it to the world once and for all. This is absolutely unacceptable to allow alcohol to go and cost so much misery and suffering to a people.

    • Posted by The right to cut them off on

      Areas where booze is supplied to the north, should have the right to vote to cut troubled communities off from receiving booze. That’s a right as good as any right the government is applying today with DYP, and it’s for the kids. In all this, kids are the last to be considered with rights. Kids are suffering most in all this needless trouble. Never mind the votes in the community, let the votes be from where it , the booze comes from. If people only knew more about the destruction with booze in many northern communities. The suffering of innocent people.

    • Posted by Wake up on

      Is this for real, the lack of awareness to alcohol issues in the alcohol problem communities. Do people see themselves or is it all a joke? This discussion has been going on forever, still the same begging for the rights to use or not use alcohol as by standards set out by law and civilized behaviour. It’s dam creepy if you think about it, people dying in droves, kids growing up with everlasting scars of abuse, and people still discussing as if it’s a normal everyday thing. Wake up, this is sick. Alcohol has so far destroyed in the concerned communities. Get a grip on life, before you all die from alcohol. Get a crisis plead out, and welcome help into your lives.

  6. Posted by Frankly on

    Alcohol has an average of one fatality every six months to a year if not more and Obviously nobody can do anything to curb binge drinking leading to death right here in our community. No treatment, no intervention and abuse is rampant. The royal Canadian mounted police cannot help but to put the people in the drunk tank. No help . Every plane has alcohol coming into town with or without people being mules.

    • Posted by Daily misery on

      Is it a choice for people to drink in these communities, or are they forced? Is it a choice to not drink or are they forced? It seems to me , people have no conscience, they do without any consideration. Extreme behaviour. All to the drink, or all to the cross of the dead Jesus. That behaviour has ruin a good otherwise drink. Alcohol is enjoyed by many, it’s not a weapon, like we see in theses communities. You say one death every six months, you’re out of tuned with reality in the community. It’s all about death, injury , destruction on a daily bases. And then blamed, blamed the blamed.

      • Posted by Puff the magic micky on

        It is laughable that in this day and age some people still think prohibition means alcohol and alcohol problems will suddenly disappear from the community.

        Can’t help but wonder if those who are advocating for kugluktuk to become restricted are the same who profit off bootlegging.

        • Posted by I think what’s laughable on

          I think what’s laughable is the continuous news about voting for alcohol use in the community. What’s the problem? What’s the issues? More stories needed about how alcohol is impacting life in The community, never mind bootlegged or bought legal. What’s going on, for the laught to start again? What with the vote?

  7. Posted by Umingmak on

    I really hope that this fails. Liquor prohibition is a colonialist policy that does nothing but make bootleggers rich.

    • Posted by Do as I say , not as I do. on

      Colonialism if you drink, colonialism is you don’t drink. There it can’t be put any better than that. The devil gave it to me, or did he take it away from me. It’s always me, doing as someone else said, not as I should do myself.

      • Posted by Umingmak on

        Well, the entire origin of the prohibition policy is the colonial belief that “Inuit cannot handle alcohol responsibly”. I oppose all prohibition & restrictions based on that alone.

        • Posted by Paradigm Shift on

          You are pushing back on a stereotype, which is understandable, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a high proportion of problems related to alcohol use in our communities. How would you meaningfully address that under a no-restrictions model?

  8. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    Alcohol problems points to mental/emotional issues in any community. It’ll keep happening, people will have to step up and talk with each other about why they drink.

    Wow even unrestricted and still bootlegging.

  9. Posted by 867 on

    Drinking alcohol requires responsibility. Graduating from high school and getting a college degree requires responsibility. Using cannabis requires responsibility. Having children requires responsibility. Owning a dog requires responsibility. Being successful at a job requires responsibility.

    Until we quit blaming alcohol for being irresponsible, nobody will ever own their poor decisions. Start making better choices and prohibition will become a thing of the past.

  10. Posted by Who can’t handle it? on

    How many people are admitting that they can’t handle alcohol in the community? Anyone? Or is it not about handling it well, but about something else we don’t understand? What’s the problem here? Why are we having the vote, can we get a few responsible people step up and tell everyone what’s going on here? Let the concerned people tell us what’s been going on in the community that warrants a vote on alcohol use. Give some news about how alcohol has impact the community.

    • Posted by Stats Can on

      Instead of posing the question here, why don’t you ask the Kugluktuk RCMP detachment for alcohol related assaults, call for service, average numbers of intoxicated people in cells, etc. The information is there for the asking.

      • Posted by No issues on

        There no issues with alcohol in that community. Then issue is the people themselves. I’ve been drinking alcohol most of my life. It’s not alcohol that causes problems, it’s the people. It’s entertaining to read about alcohol issues, from people who blamed alcohol for their issues. Food doesn’t cause obesity, it’s people who eat too much.

        • Posted by Personal responsibility on

          Nobody is saying that this is not about personal responsibility. It absolutely is. But if you lived in town where people were shooting each other regularly, would you not want to limit who has access to guns?


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