Seasonal alcohol bans come into effect in some Nunavut communities
At least 4 communities are prohibiting alcohol over the Christmas holidays
Communities across Nunavut are preparing for Christmas and in at least four communities that means ending the import of alcohol for the holiday season.
Clyde River, Hall Beach, Cape Dorset and Kimmirut have all enacted alcohol bans this week.
Cape Dorset's ban runs from Dec. 18 through Jan. 8, while Clyde River and Hall Beach enacted their bans on Monday.
Patrick Palituq is the chairperson for the alcohol education committee in Clyde River. He says he wishes every community in Nunavut would ban alcohol for the holidays.
"During Christmas, people from all over visit for the holiday, we want them to feel welcome, we think about how we don't want drunks around," Palituq said in Inuktitut.
Laureen Angugatsiaq, the secretary for Hall Beach's alcohol education committee, echoed the sentiment saying the ban creates a safe holiday environment.
"We want the community to be happy. We're thinking about how children can be safe, so they won't have to run away from danger, so we try to keep from having alcohol,"she said in Inuktitut.
For a few communities, the ban is just part of Christmas tradition, according to Stephen Lawrence the chair of the alcohol education committee in Cape Dorset.
"It's been ongoing for years now, they've been doing this, I guess so families won't have to deal with alcohol over the Christmas season," he said.
Communities decide on bans
Nunavut has 12 communities with an alcohol education committee that regulate and can restrict alcohol use. Those communities are: Arctic Bay, Cape Dorset, Chesterfield Inlet, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Kimmirut, Naujaat, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Resolute Bay and Whale Cove.
Pond Inlet isn't banning alcohol this year in an effort to curb illegal alcohol sales, according to the acting committee secretary Rhoda Quaraq.
"People tend to bootleg alcohol at a more expensive price, so we allow importing alcohol at the regular, cheaper price, so that people won't bootleg," Quaraq said in Inuktitut.
Though Pond Inlet has banned alcohol imports for periods in the past, for example in the summer of 2017 after two women died in separate incidents, the committee voted to prohibit alcohol from July until October.
In Iqaluit, which is an unrestricted community, the beer and wine store will just be closed on the statutory holidays — Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's Day, however it will have shorter holiday hours.
On Dec. 23, 27, and 28 it will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. and on Christmas Eve the store will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. As per its usual schedule it will also be closed on Sunday Dec. 29 and Monday Dec. 30.
Gjoa Haven keeps alcohol prohibition
Alcohol is always banned in Arviat, Coral Harbour, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Pangnirtung and Sanikiluaq.
Gjoa Haven voted not to change its liquor restrictions last week. Fifty-two per cent of voters or 188 people in the community voted to keep the alcohol prohibition, while 48 per cent voted for a change to allow limited quantities into the community.
The government of Nunavut requires a 60 per cent majority to change a community's alcohol rules.
Gjoa Haven's new mayor Megan Porter supports her community's decision.
"If there was a support system in the community, such as adequate alcohol education committee, mental health and drug and alcohol counselling etc. Maybe the community would have considering lifting the prohibition."
Porter said the community last voted to change the rules three years ago. Since then community members have consistently voted to keep alcohol out of Gjoa Haven.
Written by Sara Frizzell, based on reporting by Toby Otak