Prohibition in communities is “not the solution” to Nunavik’s alcohol woes, police Chief Jean-Pierre Larose told regional councillors Tuesday.
Larose, along with Deputy Chiefs Jean-Francois Morin and Shaun Longstreet, provided a nearly three-hour-long update about Nunavik Police Services activities to the Kativik Regional Government council.
Alcohol-related topics, including bootlegging and drunk driving, took up a large portion of their report with councillors asking what can be done to prevent it.
Kangiqsualujjuaq Mayor Maggie Emudluk asked about several alcohol and drug-related issues in her community, but pondered whether prohibiting alcohol in communities would be effective.
“Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what to do,” Emudluk said in Inuktitut through an interpreter on the Zoom livestream of the meeting.
“Even if we stop ordering alcohol, our community will always have alcohol.”
Larose responded that he didn’t think banning booze would be effective.
“Prohibition of alcohol is not the solution in Nunavik,” he said.
“We should be inspired to have a better control of the alcohol coming in.”
The senior police leaders talked about how work has been done to tackle bootlegged alcohol which has been coming in from the south.
For example, Nunavik police work with provincial counterparts, Montreal police, airlines that fly north and Canada Post to stop the flow of illegal alcohol and drugs to the region.
Also, police have carried out search warrants and seized alcohol in the communities.
Even then, those measures have their limits.
“We can seize as much alcohol as we want, there’s always going to be some,” Morin said.
“That’s not going to go away, so we need to find the right balance.”
Larose talked about developing a steering committee with community leaders and partners to address issues around the flow of alcohol into Nunavik.
To address the issue of drunk driving, Morin said he wants to fulfil many councillors’ requests to increase the number of road stops and patrols by police.
“It’s a really nice way to educate people and prevent accidents,” he said.
However, Salluit regional Coun. Stephen Grasser said there needs to be better education to discourage unhealthy substance use.
Grasser was firm in stating that unhealthy alcohol and drug consumption is an “individual choice,” and that there needs to be education in schools about its harmful effects.
In his community, Grasser said, an “all-organization” meeting is set to take place and he wants police to participate.
The police officials agreed, and KRG chairperson Hilda Snowball said she would want Larose to be there for that meeting.
Morin said Nunavik Police Service currently has two prevention officers employed — one for each coast — and that he wants to hire more and extend their reach by having them visit schools all over the region.
“It’s projects we used to do in the past that kind of stopped because we didn’t have the manpower,” Morin said.
“We’re of course willing to participate with the communities [and] the schools.”
By Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 14, 2023