north-cape-dorset-file

RCMP say airlines should restrict the number of alcohol orders they transport into Nunavut communities like Cape Dorset, where a large shipment last week led to a spike in calls to police.

Nunavut RCMP and at least one MLA say tighter controls are needed on the flow of alcohol being flown to remote communities, after a recent influx to one hamlet led to a surge in crime there.

About 22 orders of alcohol were delivered by plane to Cape Dorset, a community of about 1,200 located on Baffin Island, last week.

"To get that much liquor coming in at one time is just crazy," South Baffin MLA Fred Schell, whose constituency includes Cape Dorset, told CBC News on Tuesday.

RCMP said last week's shipment created a spike in alcohol-fuelled emergency calls to police, forcing officers in Cape Dorset to work for more than 24 continuous hours to deal with all the incidents.

One of those incidents, an armed standoff on July 28, involved an intoxicated 18-year-old man firing a rifle at officers, even pointing the firearm at a group of children.

No one was injured, and the man later surrendered peacefully and was arrested.

Airlines blamed

north-nu-alcohol-seized2010

Earlier this year, Nunavut RCMP showed off alcohol that was seized as part of a bootlegging investigation. ((CBC))

In Nunavut, individuals and businesses wanting to purchase alcohol must have it shipped up by plane or sealift.

In Cape Dorset and some other Nunavut communities, a local alcohol education committee regulates how much liquor can be brought into the community. The committee can grant permits to those who want to order alcohol.

RCMP lay some blame on northern airlines, like Canadian North and First Air, that transport large amounts of alcohol into remote communities.

"From a policeman's perspective, we'd like to see the airlines maybe not wait and let the orders build up and then take it in all at once," Supt. Howard Eaton said.

Eaton added that alcohol contributes to about 95 per cent of all criminal offences in Nunavut.

"When we get a shipment of liquor into any community, we get a spike in calls for service," he said.

"The nursing stations are busier [and] the social services people are tasked. You know, it just goes all the way down through the chain of community support."

Customers have rights: airline

Schell agreed that the airlines should control how many alcohol orders can be put on a given flight.

But Canadian North president Tracy Medve said it is not her company's business to regulate alcohol shipments, especially in communities where alcohol is not prohibited.

"We have customers. It's not against the law, these communities are not prohibited … they have to have permits," Medve said.

"There's the responsibility of the individuals in all of this, too," she added.

Medve said the airline will help out as much as it can with law enforcement officials.

"But we also have customers, and they have rights, too," she said.

But Schell said airlines should take more responsibility over the flow of alcohol that enters Nunavut communities.

"I've always had the issue there that airlines say, 'Well, it's not our problem, you know, if we get the freight in.' But I think there should be something put in place," Schell said.

Both Eaton and Schell are members of a Nunavut government task force considering changes to the territory's liquor laws.

Both say they will bring up the issue of liquor shipments at the task force's first meeting, scheduled to take place in Rankin Inlet at the end of this month.