Kuujjuaq voters say yes to local retail beer sales
Council to provide co-op store with guidelines
(Updated July 6, 5:00 p.m.)
Residents in Kuujjuaq have voted to return retail beer sales to Nunavik’s largest community.
In a July 6 referendum, Kuujjuammiut voted 75 per cent in favour of allowing the Fort Chimo Co-op Association to sell beer from its local store.
Of the 422 voters who cast a ballot in the municipal plebiscite, 315 said yes to the following question: “Do you agree that the Fort Chimo Co-op association begins to sell beer over the counter once again?”
“It was a very strong yes vote,” said Ian Robertson, the municipal secretary treasurer and returning officer.
But only about one quarter of the 1,529 eligible voters in Kuujjuaq actually cast a ballot July 6, he said.
The “yes” vote gives the co-op association the go-ahead to start selling beer again, although it won’t happen right away.
The co-op association won’t need to re-apply for a license to sell beer since they never relinquished their previous one, but the association will likely draft an action plan.
In 1979, the co-operative store first started selling beer in Kuujjuaq two days a week and could follow a similar schedule.
Whatever the plan, Kuujjuaq mayor Paul Parsons hopes the co-op will communicate with other community organizations to make the re-introduction of beer sales go smoothly.
“We want to make sure we do everything with due diligence – the last thing we want to see is a repeat of what happened in 1996,” Parsons said, referring to a string of alcohol-related deaths in the community.
“We need to handle this reasonably so we can keep this for the long-term.”
Apart from Kuujjuaq’s licensed drinking establishments, beer has not been sold in the community since 1996.
That year, a referendum determined alcohol sales could continue in the local bar, but not at the co-op store, following alcohol-fueled accidents.
In 2001, another referendum asked “Do you think beer should be sold in Kuujjuaq?”
But voters rejected the idea.
The latest attempt to restore beer sales came when the town council asked the co-op to participate in community radio call-in programs earlier this month.
“It was a clear decision,” Parsons said of the vote’s result.
Parsons said the retail sale of beer would help cut back on bootlegging in the community – although not entirely.
“I think that’s part of the wish of voters,” he said.