Nunavik’s COVID-19 alcohol restrictions lead to long lineups in Kuujjuaq

“Compliance continues to be a challenge for everyone”

On Monday, April 6, about 65 people line up to buy alcohol at the co-op store in Kuujjuaq. The lineups have grown since measures to limit the sale of alcohol were introduced as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Submitted photo/Facebook)

By Jane George

Nunavik’s move to limit alcohol purchases during the COVID-19 crisis to keep people healthy may have backfired due to a new phenomenon in Kuujjuaq.

Since the hours for purchasing beer and wine at the local co-operative store have been reduced and the amount that can be bought at one time has been cut, a lineup of as many as 65 people can be seen waiting to get into the co-op store when they can buy alcohol.

And the crowding may lead to more restrictions in how alcohol is obtained, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services told Nunatsiaq News on Tuesday.

For now, the health board said there are guards at the co-op to help ensure residents are complying with social distancing.

The lineup for beer and wine stretches down this street in Kuujjuaq on Monday. (Submitted photo/Facebook)

Those in the lineup are social distancing to a point, as photos circulated on Facebook show, but some residents of Kuujjuaq say that the alcohol restrictions rolled out on March 26 have created a situation where there is much less physical distancing going on than there should be.

“These restrictions are imposed to limit the harm associated with heavy drinking in the context of the risks of COVID-19 transmission in Nunavik,” stated the announcement on March 26 by the health board, the Kativik Regional Government and its civil security department.

The order limited the purchase of alcohol at the co-op stores in Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq to either 12 beers or one litre of wine, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

As well, Nunavimmiut could purchase 12 beers or one litre of wine from businesses outside Nunavik, such as Marché Turenne, which ship into the region, on Mondays and Thursdays.

“Normally the limit per person is 24 cans, but due to the reduction of cargo with Canadian North due to this COVID-19 epidemic, they have reduced the limit per person to 12 in order to be able to still provide to individuals,” a resident of Kuujjuaq told Nunatsiaq News.

But ordering from Marché Turenne adds about $140 to the cost of a 12-pack of beer, due to the minimum cargo freight charge.

“So the limits with Marché Turenne have caused people not to order with them because it’s too expensive, and that in turn is increasing the number of people at the co-op,” said the resident, who asked not to be identified.

The co-operative store in Kuujjuaq used to sell alcohol every day except Sunday, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

But now beer and wine is only available on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, leading to big lineups.

Asked about the queues, an email from the KRG said that “generally people are complying with social distancing.”

“But there is still some difficulty in having everyone comply in all situations.”

KRG spokesperson Rhéal Séguin said people have been urged to keep their distance and to stay home.

“I cannot confirm whether the limits imposed on alcohol suppliers in the South is aggravating the problem of compliance,” he said. “Compliance continues to be a challenge for everyone.”

But he said that all the measures so far set in Nunavik, including the curfews, the travel ban, the limit on the sale of alcohol, the ban on snowmobiles travelling between communities and the urgency for people to practise social distancing, has so far kept community transmission of the COVID-19 virus in check.

Messages on the local FM station and other radio and social media outlets will continue to stress the importance of stopping gatherings and abiding by the social distancing directives, Séguin said.

If the situation becomes “too risky” in the lineups, members of the Kativik Regional Police Force and Canadian Rangers would be available to enforce the directives and urge people to comply for their own good and the safety of others, he said.

As of Sunday, there were five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nunavik, including four in Puvirnituq, where the co-op store has put a temporary stop to all sales of beer and wine.

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(32) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pov on

    Just because of Covid-19, The beer and wine sale is Not on sale because the residents of Pov cannot handle their problems

  2. Posted by No Hockey on

    They could have a beer and wine only line.
    How about beer and wine deliveries.
    How about a a beer and wine only co-op?

    • Posted by Kuujjamiuk on

      I m so proud of my fellow kuujjuamiuk practicing social distancing.

      • Posted by What you a joke on

        Did you wake up from a hangover?Are you aware of 22 stops on the night of April 6 for breaking the curfew , 90 percent drunk drivers? Ok I get it you joking with you proud remark, ok . Otherwise move to old chimo.

        • Posted by Kuujjamiuk on

          OMG , 22, 90 PERCENT , OMG !!!!!!!!!

    • Posted by No beer on

      How about tea and bannock with raisins in it. Never done any harm since the day scots introduced it to the north.

  3. Posted by No working on

    This is bad. The good intentions has already backfired. Now its waiting for the virus to get in the line as well. Soon we may get a notice from the authorities asking everyone in a line up on a certain day to get tested, as exposure potential is very high. This photo is showing high risk, persons in line up for more beer, oh the trouble, double trouble, if you would. Don’t say , Nunavik authorities that you haven’t been warned, just look back at a few comments and post of last week or even the week before on this commentary site. The poor decisions by the authorities are putting people’s life in danger, it’s not those in the line up, as much as the authorities that are causing this danger , by allowing beer sales to continue, stop the sales now before we have a devastating out of control situation.

    • Posted by Northstar20 on

      This is social gathering j hope their us prevention measure’s fof ssfety please wear mask and gloves…..This is too risky this virus does spread by droplets from coughing and sneezing spreads….Use alcohol moderately anx be smart follow the rules their is nothing wrong loooking after your health “Be Cautious “.

  4. Posted by Compare to south on

    Why do you think they haven’t changed SAQ hours beyond only being closed on Sundays? Cause they understood that if they did, they would create this exact situation of people flocking to the stores. What ever your feelings are on alcohol, the truth is people are going go buy it no matter the situation. By limiting how much you can buy at a time, people have to go to the co-op more often just to get the same amount they normally buy.

  5. Posted by The weakest link on

    Here it is people. The alcohol problem in full bloom. The lineup for beer and wine is manifested by the larger aspect of a society that can’t handle its consumption of alcohol, without dire consequences. Every society has issues with alcohol. But confined into the small Nunavik community, alcohol is on a good day devastating, on its worst day war like consequences. No virus prevention is incentive for people here in Nunavik to cease the desire for alcohol. People are otherwise depressed, living a life of merely existence, rather than a happy and joyful life. It’s a society with much abuse of children, and domestic and communities troubles, with no motivation to get better. The virus could devastate the area, due to low motivation for living a good life.

    • Posted by INUK on

      Sorry Weakest link , your dreaming of a perfect world, will never happen.

      • Posted by Dear inuk on

        A perfect world is as perfect as the goodness that is perfect inside of good people. When you witness people that are not trying in this imperfect world, it’s the saddest insult to the goodness of good heart fill people. When you see people in this devastating situation behave ignorant and not caring, it’s the most perfect picture of not only imperfect, but the lesser of the imperfect human, called otherwise by religious cults and non cults as evil, and uncivilized. If you are one of those, or if you know one of those, just keep 2 meters away from the people, it’s now the best you can do inuk. Stay home, stay safe! Don’t get yourself and others perfectly sick.

  6. Posted by pissed off on

    Funny that part of the reason for the new limits is the lack of capacity with Canadian North .

    There might be a component of health concerns but the physical lack of supplies seems to have weighed into that decision.


  7. Posted by It says compliance challenge on

    This is what I have to say about that compliance part: compliance continues to be a challenge for everyone. That sentence has originated from a misunderstanding, as it refers to people in a line up for beer at the kuujjuaq co-op. The people are compliance, they’re following just what the authorities ordered. It’s the authorities that are not being compliance in their advising the proper compliance needs of the population. There’s a big misunderstanding by the authorities in what they believe to be the potential damage of this covid -19. Compliance would be a people following the instruction of the authorities to keep physical distance! With no co-op beer sales to help people not have compliance. People are in compliance therefore, in the ignorance of authorities.

  8. Posted by Little game for you on

    A pre Easter game. There are three announcements on the fm. First announcement from prime minister, telling latest updates on covid-19. Second announcement by the mayor giving latest update for Nunavik confirmed cases. Third announcement by co-op on change in beer sales. Which announcement is most important? You have three guesses by the way. Which one in more important? Hint: there’s no right answer.

  9. Posted by Listen to what John said on

    John said to me : I use to buy 24 beers a week, you know go in on Wednesday maybe pick up 12 , again on Friday or Saturday for 12. Now I’m buying 36 beers, that’s 12 more a week. I’m just following like everyone else ! Going to get 12 beers Monday , Wednesday and Friday. My friends are doing much the same. So on a week base we’re having 12 beers more than usual.

  10. Posted by Curfew disobedience on

    The curfew is not being followed, still kids out 5 in morning breaking in. Skidoo’s going around . Drunks from the line up, living it up with their last few cans driving around. The smell of weed coming off the pre teen up to the vulnerable elders, cough cough.

  11. Posted by Beer is The Vaccine on

    All this Corona is driving you nuts people, can’t we all Just get along?..? I hope the smart ones will be the first in line when Billy “Goats”Gates vaccines get here. It’s funny how educated people look down on motley crue up north and dwell amidst within us. Somebody in Wuhan China ordered a bowl of bat soup and it’s tearing mankind to pieces? Devestating bat soup was the bowl that did it.?? Wash your bloody hands mate!..

    • Posted by And you kind are potential spreaders on

      Do you know what’s going on with the bat soup? Do you ? I’m concerned about the loud, know it all calm me downers. You appear to be everything that’s talked about in these comments as a potential spreader, without even realizing. There’s a place on the koksoak river which I think some non compliant should go to, called old chimo.

      • Posted by Beer ad Weed is the Vaccine on

        I hope I didn’t spread it to you.. OMG!.. Stay home.

  12. Posted by Shameless on

    Yea okay, just drove by a grocery store and liquor store here in the city and guess what.. city folk doing the same thing.. lining up outside, around the bend. Even at the sqdc. But wait.. I have nothing better to do in isolation so let’s complain about this article, making people and the community out to look shameful. Great job everyone. Just keep your distances, wash your hands and really, just have common sense and curtesy. Ignorance won’t be so blissful if you don’t.

    • Posted by Covidiot on

      So what if you drove by and seen covidiots doing the same as in Nunavik. That don’t make it ok to do it in a Nunavik. A covidiot is a covidiot north south east west. It’s not looking shameful, as much as stupid. If shame could help so be it.

  13. Posted by Curmany on

    This pandemic is great for couch-ees who now have more time to chirp.
    Log off and read a book.

    • Posted by Couch-ee on

      Couch-ees thou are staying safe. Not in any unnecessary big line ups. Not dependent on alcohol, or drugs. Following the distancing rules.

  14. Posted by Educated people on

    Stop for a moment and be thankful for the educated among the population. The hospital staff. Without them, I’m not sure how well people will be. Other educated people like police and front line workers. Thank also the cashiers, cleaning people. And don’t forget to thank those that are commenting to try and make things better, even it it hurts you to read the truthful comments.

  15. Posted by Sad Mom on

    I find this so upsetting on so many levels. Look after your employees and they will look after you or in this case our children.
    I can image the stress this has caused so many families. Here we have a government once again whose actions do not meet the words coming out of their mouth.
    They are causing so much stress and for what? This is devastating to watch when so many people both Inuit and non-Inuit deal with mental health issues. May god forgive them. Because I will never look at these decisions makers the same.
    Do the right thing and dont drag this out any longer.

  16. Posted by Get in line on

    It’s been that way since many years with Kuujj’s beer sales – getting in a line. The exception is at the Auberge Inn restaurant where beer is served with food. Also it is how we know, when we are trail riding, that Kuujjuaq town is near, those empty beer cans.

  17. Posted by Just a matter of time on

    Could just be a matter of time, as I’m predicting one possibly outcome, that is : beer and wine sales will be shut down in kuujjuaq. Very possible. Puvirnituq did so, so let’s see how puvirnituq fares. All across Canada indigenous communities are seriously rethinking alcohol sales in this difficult time. The problem and fear with shutting it down are those addicts will turn to gasoline, glue , after shave, chemicals, and god knows what else to get high. That would overload the health care in a time when we need it for the virus. But , nevertheless, the possibility of shutting alcohol sales in kuujjuaq is real. Not only shutting it down in kuujjuaq, but shutting it down from coming in cargo too. That would make bootlegger go bankrupt too.

    • Posted by BOOZER on

      SAQ stores open down south , So why would , it be illegal to ship booze up to Kuujjuaq.
      Can t wait for this virus to pass , that way , the righteous , can take off their amour and shut up

  18. Posted by Recovered alcoholic understands on

    All this publicity about the virus is making people to be stressed and driving them to the edge.

    What does alcohol do for them? Forget and relax! That’s how it used to help me

    AND it used to be scary to run out of drinks

  19. Posted by it was worth it on


    I was lining up at the co-op for 45 minutes, it was a windy day, if you were not dressed warmly it got pretty cold, it was well worth every cold minute, we have to anti-stress with the beer from corona virus, /hick not from corona beer/.

    we are distancing and in the front door table there is a amti-bacterial gel.

    so all you stressed out ppl. you yourself could use a glass of wine or beer’s…

    tsk tsk.

    a happy drinker/ just don’t overdo it.

    • Posted by You must get in the line on

      It’s only because of idiots that cause trouble after having a few beers that’s casing theses restrictions. The next time you line up , look 2 meters up and down the line, and even sideways. Look for the idiots that can’t drink a sensible beer, look for the trouble lined up 2 or 6 meters away from you, and in closing ! I’ll ask you , are you one of those idiots that make it hard for yourself and everyone else when you get finished with your 12, 62.00 dollar beer?

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