Nunavik community offers holiday ride service
Nez Rouge volunteers picked up more than 1,000 Puvirniturmiut over the holidays
Social service workers who ran a pick-up and drop-off program in the Nunavik community of Puvirnituq over the holidays said they helped more than 1,000 people get safely to and from holiday festivities in the Hudson Bay community.
It’s the second year that community members volunteered to run Opération Nez Rouge (Operation Red Nose), a southern Quebec-based program that transports drivers back home if they have drunk too much to drive home safely.
Between Dec. 24 and Jan. 3, the program operated each night from about 9:30 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. the following day, collecting 1,300 passengers over the week and a half period.
A local addictions support group called Isaruit, or Wings, has helped run the service for the past two years, with support from staff at Puvirnituq’s Inuulitsivik health centre.
Christina Allard volunteered as a driver on New Year’s Eve, while there were activities happening all night at the community gym.
Allard had a walkie-talkie with her. She used this to communicate with volunteers at the gym, and at the home of Isaruit coordinator Louisa Kuananack or Nez Rouge volunteer Robert Powell.
“At one point, I had to kick out my co-pilot because too many people needed a ride,” Allard said. “We had so much positive feedback.”
Allard worked from 9:30 p.m. that night right through until 4:30 a.m. the following morning. In that time, she picked up almost 200 people.
Puvirnituq doesn’t have any bars, but residents have been able to order alcohol from the South since 2012, when the community of 1,700 voted in a referendum to lift alcohol restrictions.
Nunavik’s second largest community doesn’t have any taxi services, with only an elders van and a public transit bus that operates during the day.
Over the holidays, the Nez Rouge service was offered free to anyone in the community.
One night, program coordinator Louisa Kuananack said volunteers picked up an intoxicated pedestrian walking through the community with no boots on in -32 C temperatures.
In the biting cold, the service was a big help to families with no vehicle, to keep them out of the cold, Kuananack said.
“Nez Rouge was really comfortable and fun,” she said. “People were really grateful.”
The day the holiday service ended, volunteers said the local radio station was getting calls from residents, asking what happened to Nez Rouge.
Puvirnituq is the only community in Nunavik which has operated Nez Rouge, but its volunteers hope to work with other communities to launch the same service across the region in 2015.
Isaruit is already planning to offer the service again in March during Puvirnituq’s snow festival, Kuananack said.