It shouldn't be a crime to raise funeral money through lotteries, raffles, MLA says

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak is asking the government of Nunavut to check itself on how it regulates legal, or illegal, fundraisers done through lotteries and raffles.

Government warns of fraud risks, criminal acts in unlicensed lotteries held for cash, prizes

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak is challenging how the government regulates its licensing of lotteries and raffles held to raise money for families in crisis. (Nunavut Legislative Assembly)

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak is asking the government of Nunavut to check itself on how it regulates legal, or illegal, fundraisers done through lotteries and raffles.  

Earlier this week the Department of Community and Government Services issued a public service announcement to warn Nunavummiut that lotteries and raffles held without a government- or municipality-issued license are illegal. 

Under the Nunavut Lotteries Act only charitable organizations, non-profits and religious groups are allowed to run lotteries. That means people who hold 50/50s, bingos or the like without a licence can be prosecuted. 

"Individuals who wish to fundraise for personal reasons through raffles are not eligible for a lottery licence," the announcement reads. "If you are concerned of possible fraud from an unlicensed lottery, please contact your local RCMP detachment."

Angnakak said fraudsters and scammers should be prosecuted, and lotteries shouldn't be used to pay for "Vegas vacations" or "buying a new truck." 

But, given the high crime rates and serious violence seen in the territory, Angnakak questioned the wisdom of having law enforcement penalize people who are raising money for a good cause. 

"When it comes to desperate people who are looking to raise a few dollars to help with funeral-related expenses or travelling to be with a dying relative we need to take a more humane approach," she said. "Prosecuting someone in these circumstances is not the best use of our governments time and resources."

When Angnakak asked Community and Government Services Minister Lorne Kusugak for his opinion on the regulation of unlicensed lottery and raffles in communities, he said, "I believe it's my right not to state an opinion on this issue." 

Kusugak was also unaware of any prosecuted offences related to unlicensed lotteries within the last year.  

Angnakak called the current Lotteries Act out of date, it having been brought in from the Northwest Territories and only updated a few times. 

She asked to see an overhaul of the act, and for lottery games and fundraisers that are common in Nunavut, like Chase the Ace, to be reflected in those changes.