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Liquor restrictions could be eased

Kevin Wilson
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Oct 08/01) - Nunavut's liquor laws could undergo a major overhaul, following an exhaustive review by the territory's Liquor commissioner.

Finance Minister Kelvin Ng announced the review last year, saying that the provisions of the Liquor Act inherited from the former Government of the Northwest Territories, "may not be entirely suitable for Nunavut."

Liquor commissioner Goo Arlooktoo spent the ensuing 12 months consulting with communities, police and interested groups about the Liquor Act. During the review, Arlooktoo travelled to seven communities.

Although it was outside the committee's mandate, a summary of people's concerns about the social issue surrounding alcohol in the communities.

"Most of our meetings started with individuals talking about social concerns," said Arlooktoo, adding that the committee felt it "just could not ignore those concerns."

Among those interested in the contents of the report are the RCMP. Some officers have estimated that between 80 to 90 per cent of the service calls they answer are alcohol-related.

"We're certainly encouraged that the review is complete," said Staff Sgt. Mark Hennigar of the force's V Division.

"Liquor is one of the contributing factors we encounter in many violent crimes," he added.

While Hennigar declined to comment on what police hope to see in the report, he said they need improved powers of search and seizure to combat alcohol abuse.

Arlooktoo said that while Nunavut's liquor laws are among the most restrictive in Canada, alcohol abuse remains rampant, fuelled by bootlegging.

"We have the most restrictions on alcohol in the country," said Arlooktoo. "We have prohibition in some communities, which most other places don't have and what we've heard from the communities is that things like that don't work," he added.

While Arlooktoo did not reveal specific recommendations in the committee's report, he hinted that it will call for the easing of restrictions on alcohol.

"Alcohol is here to stay," said Arlooktoo. He added that, while fines for bootlegging should be increased and more money put into treatment, "there are many individuals in Nunavut who would like to enjoy a beer or a glass of wine with their meal at home."

"The number one issue raised in the communities was bootlegging, and what we've determined is that it is a supply and demand issue," he said.

Hennigar agreed.

"(Bootlegging is) one of the issues that's always expressed by the communities," he said.

Ng is expected to table the report when the legislative assembly resumes sitting in mid-November.