Arviat, Nunavut is divided ahead of Monday’s booze vote

Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet and Kugluktuk, three communities in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut,  are holding plebiscites on Monday to decide whether to lift restrictions on alcohol.

In at least one community, people are divided on whether that’s a good idea.

“I’m not hoping for a yes,” said Nick Arnalukjuak of Arviat.

Arviat, pop. 2400, is Nunavut’s third-largest community after Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet. It’s been dry for 37 years despite holding several votes on changing the rules.

Arnalukjuak is one of many people who fear that with high unemployment, unleashing more alcohol could mean more people spending money on drinking instead of feeding kids.

“Under the law there needs to be a 60 per cent yes,” Arnalukjuak said. “It doesn’t matter how big Arviat is now. Saying Arviat can take anything now, no, it’s not like that. Alcohol doesn’t care how big the community is.”

Zachariah Owingayak feels differently.

He said Arviammiut problems will come, but it’s time to learn how to deal with alcohol.

“We all have to go through problems,” he said. “Things we don’t want to hear will always happen anyways. Arviat is a huge place, bigger than Baker Lake and Whale Cove. I’d be OK if we just move on and vote yes.”

Kugluktuk and Chesterfield Inlet allow alcohol with restrictions, but residents there will also decide on Monday whether to lift the restrictions.

Students in Kugluktuk are planning a second march Thursday to urge people there to vote no.

Related Links:

Canada: Drug/alcohol abuse high among Yukon miners, CBC News

Finland: Column fuels alcohol debate in Finland, Yle news

United States: Alaska group hopes to end fetal alcohol syndrome, Alaska Dispatch

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