Residents of northern Canadian community say booze restrictions don’t work

Some residents of Paulatuk, N.W.T., say the community’s restrictions on alcohol are not working. (CBC)Many Paulatuk, Northwest Territories, residents say too much alcohol is getting into the community

Some residents of Paulatuk, a community in Canada’s Northwest Territories, say the community’s restrictions on alcohol are not working.

The remote hamlet of 330 people relies on three scheduled flights a week to bring supplies, including alcohol.

Though the arrival of the freighter brings relief, resident Terrence Green said it also brings dread.

“Pretty tough for most of the kids in town, even the kids know when Friday, Tuesday, Wednesday come, for sure their parents might have a box of booze on the plane. Well, pretty much everybody has booze coming in on the plane every Friday, Tuesday [and] Wednesday.”

Green said 90 per cent of parents in the town spend their time partying on the days after the freighter arrives. As a result, he said classrooms go empty.

“I see a bunch of kids wandering around looking for places to stay,” Green said. “They’re walking around all night, wondering where to go.”

Paulatuk is not a dry community, but you can’t buy alcohol there. There are restrictions on how much community members can order from out of town.

Lawrence Ruben, a leader in the community, thinks there is still too much alcohol around, even with the restrictions.

“Although the restrictions are there, we’ve asked the RCMP, ‘can you do checks at the airport?’ It’s well-known in the community that they don’t; it’s not their job.”

Seven years ago, Lawrence Ruben was a binge drinker, but he said he hasn’t touched liquor since. He’s concerned about the hold alcohol has on members of his community.

Ruby Ruben, a single mother living in Paulatuk, said she tries to stay away from liquor.

“I drink maybe once a month and when I do, I go for two, three days. That’s a lot.”

Ruby Ruben said she often locks her door when the freight arrives because she wants to stay away from alcohol.

“I get depressed a lot — several times a year — and it gets quite scary … I run away from it. I can’t deal with it. I’m still trying to find the strength to get help,” Ruby Ruben said.

Green said he stays away from his parents, who drink every Friday when the flight comes in.

“I wish this place could be sober for at least a month or so,” Green said. “People interact with each other more and do things more.”

“Nothing good comes out of drinking.”

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