Removal of alcohol restrictions brings trouble to Kugluktuk

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A greater volume of alcohol is flowing into Kugluktuk and the RCMP has had respond to a growing number of alcohol-related complaints.

Kugluktuk Mayor Ryan Nivingalok: “Some people have got to remember that they have to learn how to consume their alcohol and drink responsibly.” photo courtesy of Ryan Nivingalok

There were 143 more police files relating to liquor in the first five months of 2019 than in the first five months of 2018. Alcohol restrictions were officially repealed in the community on Dec. 14, following an Oct. 22 plebiscite in which 60.8 per cent of voters were in favour.

“We expected it to hit a peak sometime this spring but we’ve never seen that peak drop yet,” said Mayor Ryan Nivingalok. “Some people have got to remember that they have to learn how to consume their alcohol and drink responsibly.”

Data from the territorial Department of Finance shows a rising volume of alcohol being ordered into the community since December, reaching 2,194 litres in March.

Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak said she has advocated in the legislative assembly for education campaigns in schools and through community meetings to give people a better understanding of the dangers of alcohol and cannabis. She’d also like to see posters and commercials in place to help create broader awareness.

“It’s something we have to learn from as we go along,” Kamingoak said.

Nivingalok said he remains hopeful this is a period of “growing pains.” He referred to Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak, who told Nunavut News that he was informed by residents in Rankin Inlet that it took a while for things to “settle down” in that community after alcohol restrictions were lifted.

MLA Mila Kamingoak: An education campaign is the best way to confront growing alcohol issues in Kugluktuk. Photo courtesy of Mila Kamingoak

Baker Lake voted in January 2018 to remove its liquor limitations and the measure took effect in April. Mikkungwak said the RCMP and Family Services staff were “overwhelmed” by the resulting workload in the following months. Although he said it wasn’t “all negative,” he said there were more visibly drunken people in the streets.

Prior to Dec. 14 in Kugluktuk, the Alcohol Education Committee, comprising local residents, could limit orders to a maximum of two 60-ounce bottles and two 40-ounce bottles of spirits, 48 cans of beer

and four litres of wine every two weeks. The committee was disbanded when liquor restrictions were lifted.

Nunavut’s Liquor Act allows the Department of Finance, which oversees liquor permits, to deny a permit to individuals on a prohibited list, which is generated through the courts. However, it is very rarely used, and there is currently no one on that list.

Several other Kugluktuk residents declined to speak on the record about changes they’ve seen in the community over the past several months.

“I’m hoping it levels out,” Nivingalok said of the increase in alcohol-related criminal complaints.

Fact file
Alcohol-related complaints to the Kugluktuk RCMP
2019 (compared to same month in 2018)
January – 60 files (up 37)
February – 48 files (up 19)
March – 108 files (up 54)
April – 57 files (up 20)
May – 72 files (up 13)
[the lifting of liquor restrictions took effect on Dec. 14]
Source: RCMP

Alcohol ordered into Kugluktuk (in litres)
September 2018 – 1,181
October – 1,397
November – 1,446
December – 1,640
January 2019 – 1,805
February – 1,840
March – 2,194
*not including the personal exemption allowing residents to bring up to three litres of spirits, nine litres of wine or 26 litres of beer into the community with them on flights.
Source: Department of Finance