Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 23, 2012 - 12:31 pm

Mine near Baker Lake sparked more alcohol use: RCMP

“We become the first point of contact when things go sideways”

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Chief-Supt. Steve McVarnock, the commanding officer of Nunavut’s “V” division of the RCMP, gives a presentation to the Nunavut Impact Review Board during final public hearings July 20 on the Mary River iron ore project July 20. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
Chief-Supt. Steve McVarnock, the commanding officer of Nunavut’s “V” division of the RCMP, gives a presentation to the Nunavut Impact Review Board during final public hearings July 20 on the Mary River iron ore project July 20. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)

The RCMP doesn’t predict major problems with the Mary River iron mine project, but points out that calls for service and alcohol permits rose drastically in Baker Lake after Agnico-Eagle’s Meadowbank gold mine started operations, Chief-Supt. Steve McVarnock told the Nunavut Impact Review Board July 20.

“We want to reiterate that we have no concerns whatsoever with onsite related issues at any of the industry or mining sites through the North, McVarnock said.

But in Baker Lake, the RCMP noted that between 2008 and 2011:

• calls for service increased by 22.5 per cent;

• the prisoner count on the ground there increased by 35 per cent over the four-year period; and

• the Criminal Code workload – the proportion of calls that involved court-related activity — increased by 36.5 per cent.

Overall in 2012 there were 800 calls for service in Baker Lake, up from 540 at this time last year.

“So again, they are trending to increase their activity from last year,” McVarnock said.

In Pond Inlet, however, the community closest to Mary River, the statistics from the same period, 2008 to 2011, have remained constant.

“It’s been pretty consistent,” he said. “We’re going to have to ask what’s the difference, why the difference and why the increase in one location over the other,” McVarnock said.

Nunavut has always had the highest criminal code work ratio, he said. “We seem to be at the top consistently year after year.”

It is no surprise that alcohol is a factor in these stats as it is abused in the territory, McVarnock said.
In 2009, 3,000 alcohol permits were issued in Baker Lake, before Meadowbank started up.

In 2011, 6,105 liquor permits issued in that community,  a more than 100 per cent increase in a 24 month range.

“And it stands to reason, [because of] more disposable income in the community, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody, but now we have the evidence-based data to situate it and to think about it as we move forward,” McVarnock said.

The increase in policing activity creates a ripple effect on other services, such as health and social services.

“We become the first point of contact when things go sideways, but we’re certainly not the last,” he said of the demand on services.

“We are and will continue to work very closely with Baffinland to enhance on-site security, protect sovereignty, given that the railway and deep-sea component of the operation will be very unique and different to what other mining operations in the area possess,” he said.

Details still need to be worked out for emergency response measures related to the proposed Baffinland site, and what community that response would come from.
“I think the programs, the security levels that they have on site are very sound, very timely and the sanctions are clear,” McVarnock said of current on-site mine security.

The RCMP is supportive of mining industry development in the North, and that kind of development could provide opportunites to the next generation of leaders, he said.

“We do have a very young population up here in Nunavut, a total population of only 33,000, but a very young population within that total number,” he said.

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