North

Support for beer and wine stores in Nunavut hamlets leaves some residents wary

The Nunavut hamlets of Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet have voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing a beer and wine store in their communities — a result that has left some residents disappointed, but not surprised.

Final decision on whether communities allow beer and wine stores rests with the territorial government

The communities of Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet have voted in support of allowing beer and wine stores, but some residents are worried that the stores may bring more problems than benefits. (CBC)

The Nunavut hamlets of Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet have voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing a beer and wine store in their communities — a result that has left some residents disappointed, but not surprised.

The non-binding results came by way of a plebiscite Monday asking whether residents would support a beer and wine store in their community. A final decision will be made by the Nunavut government, but in both plebiscites, over two-thirds of voters expressed their support.

However, there were people in both communities that hoped for another outcome.

"It's a bit disappointing," said Tagak Curley, a former Nunavut politician and resident of Rankin Inlet. "But it's also not surprising.

"More and more, we see people involved in alcohol, and definitely [they] want closer sales and availability of the product in these two communities."

In particular, Curley is worried about the social fallout from alcohol abuse, saying that alcohol is one of the biggest factors in the breakup of families in the territory and a source of violence. He also said that he knows others who feel the same.

"In democracy we don't always win, but it doesn't mean we're wrong," he said. "We took the positive side and the majority won yesterday, and we accept that."

Steve Fredlund, a resident of Rankin Inlet, said that his concerns were rooted in the community's history, citing sales of beer at the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1970s causing issues within the hamlet.

"I think everyone should have voted the way they saw themselves using it, and I think that what has happened," he said.

"A beer and wine store isn't going enhance or degrade our community. It's our behaviour as people of Rankin Inlet, that's what is going to enhance or degrade our community."

Government pleased with voter turnout

The final decision to allow a beer and wine store in Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay ultimately rests with the territorial government, but the results will be taken into consideration by the territory's politicians.

Having a non-binding plebiscite was an effective way to gauge what people thought without forcing a decision, said Dan Carlson, the assistant deputy minister for the territory's finance department.

Carlson said the government was pleased with the number of people who voted.

"We're satisfied with the turnout," he said. "It's important that regardless of how somebody wants to vote, it was good to  see there was good turnout at the plebiscites."

Information from the plebiscites will now be passed on to territorial MLAs, who will debate the merits and drawbacks of allowing the stores in Nunavut's legislature.

Carlson noted that with an election scheduled for the fall, MLAs may choose not to make a final decision on the matter before voters head to the polls to select a new government, "but they may choose to. It's up to them."

now