Pangnirtung mayor calls for more screening at Iqaluit airport

“The security at the airport could be tightened up, to check what’s coming into the community”

Pangnirtung airport. The hamlet’s mayor, Stevie Komoartok, wants more to be done to prevent alcohol from being brought into his supposedly dry community in passengers’ luggage. (Photo by Phillip Lightfoot)

By Patricia Lightfoot

Pangnirtung’s mayor says that more should be done to curb the flow of alcohol and drugs from Iqaluit to his supposedly dry community via airline passengers.

“The security at the airport could be tightened up, to check what’s coming into the community,” said Stevie Komoartok.

Passengers don’t go through security at Iqaluit’s airport if they are getting on flights with destinations within the territory.

Komoartok said that he is also concerned that alcohol and drugs are arriving through the mail.

An in-flow of alcohol and drugs has changed the community for the worse in the last couple of years, he said.

In spring 2018, the hamlet council reached out to the Government of Nunavut for help in addressing family violence, suicide, homelessness and addictions.

A meeting took place in the hamlet with senior GN officials from the Department of Justice; officials who work in mental health, poverty reduction and public safety; and then–RCMP commanding officer, Michael Jeffrey.

One outcome was the decision to set up a joint committee of community members and government staff to identify what was working and what was not.

Nunatsiaq News asked Komoartok what has changed since that meeting over a year ago.

Like hamlet councillor Markus Wilcke, who recently shared his perspective with Nunatsiaq News, Komoartok recognizes that there is now wide awareness and concern about Pangnirtung’s situation.

“The Governor General came on August 30, 2018, just to show that she cared about our losses last year,” Komoartok said.

He also expressed his frustration, saying of the hamlet’s requests for help to the GN, “They know about our situation, and it’s just taking too long.”

Regarding the community’s efforts, Komoartok said he’s taken part in many meetings of the joint committee, now called a coalition.

He referenced community initiatives, such as a wellness and empowerment program that ran from mid-January to the spring of this year, and a six-week qumatik-building program for young men that ran last December.

He said, however, that the once-lively youth centre remains closed “due to financial difficulties and staffing difficulties.”

He adds, “I hope they [the GN] come up with something in the next year or so, because I think it’s going to be an emergency in the next couple of years, before we come to that emergency.”

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(22) Comments:

  1. Posted by not iqaluit on

    As much as this must be frustrating for the people of Pangirtung, why would security in iqaluit selectively screen certain passengers for booze? A person can now legally fly anywhere in Canada with any amount of wine or beer (there are still limits for hard alcohol), so it only becomes illegal when they land in a dry community. Therefore the onus is on security at the Pangirtung airport to check bags. Not Iqaluit.

    I can see how that’s an unfair argument. Iqaluit has a bigger airport, more resources, etc. But still: why would the hamlet’s decision to be a dry community become Iqaluit airport’s problem? You would need the GN to step in and pass new legislation in order to make that happen.

    I think this is a perfect example of why alcohol prohibition doesn’t work. You want the modern conveniences of southern products, airline travel, but you try to block any form of alcohol because you don’t trust your residents. And you wonder why they act bad when they finally drink. If you tighten security at the airport, alcohol will come in another way. You could easily pack a bunch of 60oz bottles in a sealift and the company would never ask you to open your boxes. Will the mayor then say sea lift need to have better security? Because some communities made a decision to be dry?

    If Pangnirtung is dead set on enforcing their dry community laws, then they need to also take into account what it actually takes to achieve that. You can just pass the buck to someone else.

  2. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Iqaluit is not a dry community there is no requirement for screening on flights to the communities. It is the responsibility of dry communities like Pangnirtung to screen arriving flights in order to keep alcohol out not Iqaluit.

  3. Posted by OMG on

    Alcohol… will not change or go away. It’s people that cause the problem. Alcohol is not forcing anyone to drink it, or become aggressive to the point of a stand-off, or commit indecent, heinous crimes – that’s coming from a person. Why people make the sober decision to drink alcohol knowing their own personal situation of being underprivileged, irresponsible and vile is beyond me. It’s so self-serving and myopic. Changes are not being made because changes are not being wanted. Regardless of your culture, your upbringing, your socio-economic status, or your beliefs – at some point you have to evaluate you and your life choices. There needs to be more lateral shaming from community members, stricter fines and jail sentences for those known-bootleggers and those who sell to minors, less Medical travel (as copious amount are brought back this way), and more parenting.

  4. Posted by Dry never works on

    $150/ 13oz liquor? This is nuts. What you need there is a beer and wine store!

  5. Posted by John on

    I don’t see how screening isn’t Pang’s problem to solve. It’s a very very well known fact that prohibition is ineffective so the onus to enforce needs to be on the community insisting on continuing the failed policy.

    I know it may seem unfair and I’m not trying to undermine the importance of this issue… but we shouldn’t have to slow ourselves down so someone else can continue to push a policy that doesn’t, hasn’t and won’t work.

  6. Posted by Tommy on

    Panniqtuuqmiut should know by now that prohibition is not working and has never worked. A community of 1500 people can’t progress because they cannot accept responsibility on their own. Pangnirtung used to be a leader in terms of progress, but look where it is now. Dry community is just a fancy word that its’ residents can be rest assured that there are no alcohol allowed. Yeah right, as if one should even follow the paper.

  7. Posted by Gjoa Havener on

    They don’t check for booze in our community as much as they should, our RCMP members happily make OT hours at the end of the day,,,
    Kudo’s to this mayor for bringing it up, unlike ours,,,

    • Posted by Callingitlikeiseeit on

      Gjoa Havener I’m pretty confident that most of the RCMP officers in the Territory don’t enjoy getting woken up at all hours of the night to go deal with drunks who are either fighting with them, or with another member of the community, or just passed out covered in some form of bodily fluid.. Most I’m sure would much rather finish their shift, and spend their evenings with there families.
      I do agree with you that this Mayor should be applauded for finally bringing this up.

    • Posted by There’s a catch on

      The RCMP cannot search people without reasonable grounds. Same with the mail. They can’t just take people’s mail on a suspicion. Need grounds and a warrant. The Canada Post Corporation Act does not give them the authority to seize mail at present. At the airport, they need good information. Not just “so and so is bringing booze”. Need to know approx amt/type, what flight they are on, what the luggage looks like. Seizing booze makes their jobs easier. No reason why they wouldn’t want to get it, prevents the excessive call outs that interfere with having any sort of work life balance.

    • Posted by Unamused on

      Have you ever talked to an RCMP officer and asked how much they enjoyed being dragged out of bed at 3 am to deal with two drunken idiots trying to beat each other?

      • Posted by INUK on

        3 weekagos , i got woken up 4 in the morning by two idiots beating each other outside my house , didn t bother calling the cop , after the idiot moved on , went back to sleep

  8. Posted by Israel MacArthur on

    Somebody better explain to the mayor that the legal framework that would need to be put into place to develop such a screening system would take years.

  9. Posted by Former on

    As an ex-cop, I could tell you that there was nothing better than stopping booze from coming into the community, it prevented so many calls and incidents from happening.

    The RCMP would love to stop and search people but they’re not allowed. Everyone is protected “against unreasonable search or seizure.” Means the police, in order to search, need reasonable grounds and evidence, not mere suspicion. This will never change and as much as the Mayor wants everyone searched, it will NEVER happen.

    They need to accept that Prohibition does not work and instead begin concentrating on healing and treatment. Begin doing what Cambridge Bay is doing with their on the land treatment program.

  10. Posted by Observer on

    I’d give you good odds that the mayor and concerned residents of Pangnirtung could, within a day or two, be able to compile a list of every bootlegger and illegal drug dealer, and the people who buy from them, in town and could turn that over to the RCMP.

    I’d give you good odds the mayor and concerned residents of Pangnirtung won’t do that because they don’t want to be the ones turning in people. They want someone else to do it for them. They want someone else to take the responsibility.

  11. Posted by Coral on

    Last time I was in a “dry community”, minding my own business doing groceries at the northern, I was approached by a young man welcoming me to (insert dry community name here). The conversation quickly turned into “is there anything I can do to make your stay more enjoyable?”. After a stern but respectful “no thanks”, the conversation quickly turned into “Want to buy some weed or a micky”!

    It is on the community to shame those who are committing these illicit acts. Call the RCMP, everyone knows who the bootleggers are. Or, better yet, accept the fact that alcohol and drugs are part of a society, and are not going anywhere.

    Prohibition doesnt work. Restrictions dont work either. It is on the community to work together to ensure that liquor is handled responsibly, and those that abuse, are dealt with using the appropriate measures and that services are available to help those in need. Shame on Pang for pointing the finger.

  12. Posted by George on

    Prohibition has been a horrible failure everywhere on this planet. that needs to end. there is also this little thing called the Canadian Charter of Rights that the Mayor should read. Searches in the manner such as he is suggesting are in violation of that. For those that do it you are making your Hamlet liable for possible legal actions.

    I think the time has come for the GN to get rid of the silly outdated act and focus on programming that would help people in the all Hamlets to use booze in a socially acceptable manner.

    Prohibition has caused many of these issues around Binge drinking, time to move on from it.

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Yes, and in a similar vein I’ve heard it said a number of times by people who would know that Nunavut’s liquor law would be in great jeopardy during a court challenge. The only reason that it sill exists is that no one has bothered to mount a serious claim.

  13. Posted by neighbor on

    I believe their should be screening done to the would be flyers and their suitcases at the Iqaluit airport heading to further north in case they are bringing illegal weapon(s) and or ammunitions…illegal batteries, explosive sprays and who knows what. If not, they’re putting everyone on board in a dangerous situation.

    • Posted by Callingitlikeiseeit on

      Neighbour, you’re right. As it stands right now, anyone could walk onto a plane heading to any of the communities with a loaded firearm in their carry-on. It would be a bit of a process to get a screening setup going, but would pay off in the long run. If I’m flying WestJet going from Halifax to Moncton I’m still going through security and my bags are being screened. This should be the process in the North. No excuse. Not sure what it’s going to take for the GN to take this seriously, but probably some form of mid-air emergency unfortunately.

  14. Posted by Free for all… but pay $500 on

    Pang is one of the rare places where anyone can be a bootlegger. If you do not care about affecting your fellow community members, there’s big money to be made. Pay $60 for a bottle while out – bring it back and sell it for $500-600. Unless stiffer penalties and fines are put into place… everyone or anyone will be a bootlegger. The mayor and other “concerned” community folk keep asking for outside help as they do not want to be responsible for calling out their family members and friends.

  15. Posted by Speak to me your people on

    The mayor can always talk to his own people. He should reach out to the community.

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