Unruly behaviour in Nunavut COVID-19 isolation hubs may prompt liquor restrictions
“The government is exploring options with its contractors to reduce access to alcohol while in isolation”
The Government of Nunavut says it’s exploring options for how to limit access to alcohol at its isolation hubs for residents waiting to return to the territory from southern Canada, following complaints about alcohol-fuelled misconduct that has led to recent visits by police and firefighters.
“As alcohol is a legal substance, the Government of Nunavut does not have the authority nor power to limit its consumption and or sale in another jurisdiction,” says a statement from the Health Department.
However, the GN said “the government is exploring options with its contractors to reduce access to alcohol while in isolation.”
Police in Edmonton have confirmed details of an argument that occurred Sept. 8 at the Holiday Inn at 44 Avenue and Gateway Blvd. between an intoxicated man staying at the hotel and hotel security.
That also saw the fire department called to the scene.
“No criminal offence occurred, (and) no arrests were made,” said Cheryl Voordenhout, a communications advisor with Edmonton Police Service.
The Department of Health said it does not comment on individual cases. But it acknowledged in its emailed statement to Nunatsiaq News that alcohol does enter the Edmonton isolation hub.
Nunavut operates four isolation hubs for residents travelling from southern Canada back to the territory, to help keep COVID-19 out of the territory.
Though people are not allowed to leave the hotel in Edmonton to purchase alcohol, “there are a number of delivery services in southern Canada that will deliver alcohol,” the Department of Health said.
The same applies to now-legalized marijuana suppliers, a list of which is available to guests at the Holiday Inn in Edmonton.
The medical travel isolation hub in Winnipeg operates by different rules, the Health Department said.
It’s also the only hub run by the GN. The other hubs’ operations are contracted out to the business arm of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, Qikiqtaaluk Corp., which also manages the Larga patient boarding homes for Nunavut Inuit receiving health care outside Nunavut.
In Winnipeg, Nunavummiut staying at the Best Western Plus Winnipeg Airport Hotel on 1715 Wellington Ave. fall under the medical travel guidelines that prohibit the use of alcohol, the Health Department said.
“The Department of Health recognizes that alcohol is still, at times, entering the Winnipeg site. The Department of Health is working through education and support to limit the entry of alcohol into the Winnipeg Medical Travel site,” the Health Department said.
One source who was not authorized to speak to reporters related how an intoxicated individual in isolation in Winnipeg recently set fire to their sheets.
The Winnipeg Police Service said it couldn’t confirm the incident. “Due to privacy reasons, we are unable to provide details of incidents that occur at private addresses.”
Similarly, the Ottawa Police Service said it was unable to confirm whether police had responded to a recent brawl between hotel guests, witnessed by guests at the Residence Inn by Marriott on 1172 Walkley Rd.
Officers may stop by the hotel to check into complaints without laying charges, the OPS said.
One isolation hub guest said that yelling from inside rooms can often be heard from the halls.
Another guest witnessed a confrontation between an intoxicated individual and a security guard early one morning.
“Recognizing that overuse of alcohol can lead to unacceptable behaviour, the isolation sites strive to support those in isolation through mental health support and access to treatment. Complaints regarding alcohol, depending on severity, are directed toward isolation relations, isolation site management or local law enforcement,” the Health Department said.
This past weekend in Edmonton, members of the hotel staff were knocking on doors to locate a guest who was unaccounted for, said another guest who received multiple questions about what room they were in.
Such a breach of quarantine would result in a “reset” to the two-week isolation period that would start all over again.
The Department of Health said it “strives to support those who have had a reset to their isolation period to ensure they successfully complete the 14-day period and return home.”
And, “whether in isolation or home in Nunavut, the Department of Health encourages people to be responsible when consuming alcohol,” the statement said.