North

Behchoko announces temporary alcohol ban

The community of Behchoko, N.W.T., is temporarily banning alcohol amid growing concerns about a recent spike in alcohol-related incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

'There was a concern so we had to take some action,' says Chief Clifford Daniels

Behchoko Chief Clifford Daniels says the community government had to take some action after a growing number of alcohol-related incidents. (CBC)

The community of Behchoko, N.W.T., is temporarily banning alcohol amid growing concerns about a recent spike in alcohol-related incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From May 9 to May 18, 2020, the community's government has banned the consumption, purchase, sale, or transportation of liquor within a 25-kilometre radius of Behchoko's SportsPlex.

The chief of Behchoko says the decision was made after noticing an increase in alcohol-related incidents the RCMP was dealing with and discussing a number of concerns from residents.

Clifford Daniels said that includes a rise in the number of groups out drinking late into the night who were not abiding by the two metre physical distancing rules set out by the territory.

He said a prohibition order can last up to ten days at a time and can be extended, noting violators could be subject to a fine.

The order will be enforced by the RCMP. Daniels said the community will see how it goes before making a decision whether to extend it.

Federal funding a possible factor, suggests chief

He said his community was caught off guard by the announcement, and that was by design.

"There wasn't any previous notice to this. And the reason being is that we know that people take this as an opportunity and might stock up on alcohol. And we did this as fast as we could," he said.

Daniels said the community tried to get a temporary closure of liquor stores across the N.W.T., but the territory only reduced the amount residents could purchase to $200 per day

In recent years, Behchoko's restrictions have fluctuated from prohibiting alcohol, to alcohol rationing, with the community voting in 2016 to lift the ban entirely. Communities in the Northwest Territories have the ability to dictate their own restrictions on alcohol.

Daniels pointed to federal government assistance as a possible reason why there has been an increase in alcohol consumption in recent months.

"We noted that there was also increased drinking, possibly due to extra funds that were available through federal assistance to those who are in need," he said. "Some could be abusing that, and there's not too much to do when you're in isolation, and especially [in] small communities."

"There was a concern, so we had to take some action."

With files from Alyssa Mosher

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