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Kugluktuk seeks vote to control alcohol

Stephanie McDonald
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 27, 2007

KUGLUKTUK - A two-week temporary alcohol ban was to be lifted Monday in Kugluktuk, and the hamlet council hopes to hold a plebiscite within the next six weeks on whether alcohol importation should be controlled.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Gibson Kaosoni poses with his banner during the Aug. 10 "Save Our Youth" march in Kugluktuk. Scores of students from Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik and Kugluktuk high school led the awareness activity to ask the community to stop excessive drinking and choose productive lives instead. Several students volunteered to ask residents to sign a liquor ban petition. - photo courtesy of Jeff Tologanak

Alcohol is not regulated in the community on a permanent basis.

Kugluktuk council implemented a temporary ban on liquor between June 26 and July 26, at the request of the local RCMP detachment while their detachment building was being renovated.

The police noticed a major difference in crime during that period. Two weeks prior to the June 26 ban, 59 people were taken into custody, the majority for alcohol related crimes, said Sgt. Chris Bewsher.

During the ban, only three people were brought into custody. In the two weeks following the ban being lifted, 36 were put in jail.

"Those numbers are what they are, and we think they are revealing," Bewsher said.

The RCMP submitted a report with these numbers at the Aug. 13 hamlet meeting.

"The numbers were staggering," Kugluktuk Mayor Derrick Power said.

In addition to the crime rate increasing, two young people committed suicide while under the influence of alcohol and the RCMP received 12 Mental Health Act complaints - involving a person at risk of harming themselves or others - in the two weeks following the lifting of the ban.

Armed with this information, the council decided to implement their third two-week alcohol ban of the year, the annual total allowed for each of Nunavut's hamlets. Since the latest ban, the RCMP has not received a single complaint of an intoxicated person.

That prohibition is set to end Aug. 27, but Power has been in touch with Finance Minister David Simailak to have that temporary ban stay in place until the hamlet can hold a plebiscite.

"We are in the process of having a plebiscite in the community to try to get alcohol controlled and distributed as per a committee who will decide who can order," Power said.

A plebiscite petition containing 20 names, a required formality, has been sent to Simailak.

In order for the plebiscite to pass, 60 per cent need to vote in favour of the motion. A similar plebiscite was held in 2000 with only 40 per cent voting in favour of controlling alcohol importation.

According to the Liquor Act, three years must pass before another such vote is held.

There have been several petitions circulating, asking that alcohol be controlled, one of which was started by high school students.

There was also a suicide awareness march held on Aug. 10.

"It was to bring awareness of the urgency of the situation that alcohol destroys lives and sometimes leads to suicide," resident Jeff Tologanak said.

He estimated that 200 people participated in the event.

Tologanak is of the opinion that alcohol should be controlled, but not completely banned.

"There are certain people in town who can keep it in moderation," he said.

Power said community reaction to the proposed controls on alcohol importation has been mixed.

Resident Colin Adjun said working towards controlling alcohol is a good idea, as RCMP reports reveal that crime is related to drugs and alcohol.

"It's hurting our young people," he said.

Minister Simailak had not returned calls by Nunavut News/North's press time.