Kuujjuaraapik launches beer and wine sales

Nunavik community becomes 3rd in the region to do so

A view over the neighbouring town sites of Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui, where residents can now buy beer and wine locally. (Photo courtesy of MH Lareault/Wikicommons)

By Sarah Rogers

Great Whale River Co-op staff set up pilons to direct customers to where they can pick up their alcohol orders. (Photo courtesy of Great Whale River Co-op)

The Great Whale River Co-op in Kuujjuaraapik launched wine and beer retail sales last week, making it the third Nunavik community co-op to do so.

Over the past decade, the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec (Ilagiisaq) has done the same in its Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq stores.

While most Nunavimmiut are required to order alcohol from southern retailers, co-op sales keep proceeds in the community while cutting down on local bootlegging.

Kuujjuaraapik Mayor Anthony Ittoshat said he’s very supportive of the new initiative.

The Northern Village hosted a referendum in 2020 to gauge public interest in local alcohol sales, to which the majority of residents voted in favour, he said.

“It’s something we really wanted to try,” Ittoshat said.

“As a community, we still have a say, in the sense that this is a pilot project. If people can learn to drink in a socially responsible way, maybe we can keep this open.”

In the first week of sales, Ittoshat said he hasn’t noticed any major changes in behaviour or consumption rates, though he acknowledges it may be too soon to see an impact.

In both Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq, police noted an initial drop in alcohol-related calls when co-ops started selling alcohol in those communities.

Kuujjuaraapik is already home to two bars, so local alcohol sales aren’t entirely new, Ittoshat noted.

“There’s been no hoopla or big lineups,” he said. “The novelty maybe wore off after Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq.

“I have noticed that some people have expressed that they’re concerned…. that with more availability [of alcohol], there’ll be more drinking.”

For its part, the local co-op said it’s enforcing strict rules to ensure sales go smoothly.

Residents can order a daily limit of up to 12 cans of beer plus one litre of wine at the store Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Customers then return with a receipt to pick up their orders from the back of the store between 4 and 6 p.m.

Customers must have a membership to the co-op and show proper identification.

Any customers with outstanding debt are required to pay $10 towards that debt before they can purchase alcohol, the co-op’s Facebook page said.

Co-op membership is also open to residents of neighbouring Whapmagoostui First Nation, which shares a town site with Kuujjuaraapik.

Ittoshat said the Northern Village consulted with the Cree First Nation and received support from its leadership before the co-op launched its new retail store.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by OF on

    This really sucks for the bootleggers in this community. A big win for Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui.

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  2. Posted by Peter on

    A good idea to control the local sales, have some additional jobs and keep the money in our communities. How ever if anyone thinks the bootlegging of liquor is going to decrease or stop, not going to happen, just saying. We still have bootlegging of liquor in Kuujjuaq and Povernituq despite the coops selling wine and beer.

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    • Posted by Kuujjamiuk on

      Very true , the bootleggers in Kuujjuaq are still in business.

      • Posted by Fcnq money on

        People have a notion that money made from the booze at the co-op stores somehow stay in the community.?Think again. It’s money , big ripoff profits to FCNQ. The community only absorbed the misery, not the benefit. For the community to even allow that to happen shows how passive people are. Nunavik community life is made miserably so because too many people can’t hold their booze well. It’s sad to see man and wife and child at the co-op only there to buy booze, while the little kid just watches. Then the family walks out to walk all the way home carrying their ammunition for a night of misery. They walk because they could never afford transportation due to their heavy drinking. 20 years down the road that same kid, if he or she don’t get taking by DYP, will be in the co-op with their kid, and a life of misery goes on and on. If anyone wants to do something for Nunavik, just at least keep reminding people that alcohol continues to destroy Nunavik. People also drive , like they got their license in a beer box, and finished the beer before the drive.

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  3. Posted by Shot gun sales on

    I find it very convenient to be able to pick up a cold beer. I navigate through the line up, and other times no line up. I navigate through a few drunks buying beer, once in awhile. The stores still haven’t deal effectively with the drunk buying beer as of yet. Annoying drunks. But for me and others who have a sensible beer, it’s costly, but it’s ok to have a cold beer. But, there are so many restrictions with getting that cold beer. You have to deal with time slots, you have to deal with limits. You have to deal with tight security. All that to get a beer,. It’s called shot gun sales. As long as the restrictions are needed, and community selling beer and wine are living on the edge of trouble, and trouble is waiting to happen, that why restrictions are there. But restrictions are the indicator that’s it’s dangerous. Puvirnituq and kuujjuaq may in the beginning had no big increase in bad behaviour, but as the years have gone by, the injury and death in these communities from alcohol sales are phenomenal. The price of a beer or a glass of wine, factoring in the cause medical bills, police calls and devastating lost of life, makes the taste either more appealing or taste very bad.

  4. Posted by We’re proud of you on

    I’m trying to speak to people that have been always able to buy beer, wine and anything else in alcohol. What are we to do with reading about this new restricted sales in the year 2021? Are we suppose to be proud of those coming of age, finally able to get what we always got? This is scary stuff happening. I’m not impressed, nor am I proud for those that live under theses horrific situations. It’s so predictable, it’s almost a game like. You can have three guesses, and it’ll all come true, like how much drunken behaviour will come and go, but mostly come and stay. This is ridiculous news. It should be made more public, for a world view. This whole report, needs museum documentation.

  5. Posted by Curious on

    I hope the children will be able to eat well, be taken care of despite parents having a case of beer on the table as a priority. Instead of empty fridge or fridge full of beer.

    • Posted by Children in foster on

      Then we here about the DYP, and children losing language and culture as they are sent to Montreal in foster care. This is pathetic . The major contributor to children being put into foster in the first place is alcohol, and here we are reading about how happy it is to be able to get wine and beer. How many of us know the difference. Let’s be thankful that there are people taking care of little children , whether it be in south or north.

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