Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik November 28, 2017 - 1:00 pm

Nunavik community still adapting to alcohol sales

“We thought it was going to be easier if people learned how to use it"

Co-op customers in Puvirnituq first pay for and then pick up their alcohol order at this counter in the lobby of the co-op store. The community has been selling beer and wine since 2015. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Co-op customers in Puvirnituq first pay for and then pick up their alcohol order at this counter in the lobby of the co-op store. The community has been selling beer and wine since 2015. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Jason Angiyou gets a lift home from the courthouse on the back of a four-wheeler after a Quebec judge acquitted him on charges of assault. The 34-year-old said alcohol has been a major factor in his criminal record and he plans to move away from Puvirnituq, where he says alcohol is too easy to get a hold of.  (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Jason Angiyou gets a lift home from the courthouse on the back of a four-wheeler after a Quebec judge acquitted him on charges of assault. The 34-year-old said alcohol has been a major factor in his criminal record and he plans to move away from Puvirnituq, where he says alcohol is too easy to get a hold of. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

PUVIRNITUQ—Jason Angiyou was acquitted Nov. 17 on a charge of assault causing bodily harm, for allegedly stabbing another man in Puvirnituq and then threatening his ex-girlfriend.

The judge acquitted him on the threat charge due to conflicting testimony, and he’s acquitted on the assault charge because it was considered self-defence.

Angiyou credits his acquittal to a strong testimony: “I was sober when [the incident] happened.”

The 34-year-old is planning to relocate to Salluit, where his girlfriend lives and is expecting the couple’s first baby this winter.

Angiyou admits he has a “hefty” record and considers Salluit a fresh start.

“Alcohol is a big factor in my life,” he said. “I’ll try my very best to stay away from it. Here it’s just too easy to get a hold of it.

“I want to start over again.”

Lawyers who work in the criminal court in this Nunavik community estimate that around 90 per cent of their clients’ cases are related to abusive alcohol use, creating violence at home and on the road.

Over the course of week-long court sessions, a number of offenders were unable to answer questions or recall incidents in cross-examination because they had been intoxicated and “don’t remember.”

This fall marks two years since the Povungnituk Co-operative Association launched beer and wine sales from its local store. Puvirnituq was the second community in Nunavik, after Kuujjuaq, to vote to sell alcohol through its co-op store.

Residents of the community of roughly 1,800 could previously and still do order alcohol from the South, but they have a local option now: the co-op sells 12-packs of beer and boxed wine from a counter adjacent to the store six days a week.

From the time sales open late afternoon, the co-op is busy, with lines stretching through the store, while trucks, snowmobiles and four-wheelers crowd around the building.

When the sales were first introduced, Kativik Regional Police Force officers in Puvirnituq noted a drop in calls.

But gradually, KRPF Capt. Jean-François Morin said, alcohol-related incidents have increased.

Bootlegging still exists in Puvirnituq, to supply harder alcohol to the market. But with beer and wine sales, some residents say that people are drinking every day—rather than binge drinking once in awhile.

“We can see it right away, whether the person is drunk on beer or harder alcohol,” Morin said. “Their behaviour is different.”

The co-op places a limit on what customers can buy each day. The current limit is 12 cans of beer, though for a time, the co-op allowed customers to purchase double that on Friday nights.

Morin said this led to a sharp increase in calls on Friday night through Saturday.  The co-op eventually opted to return to its regular limit on Fridays and Morin said “it’s helped quite a bit.”

Paulusie Angiyou is a long-time municipal councillor and past mayor in Puvirnituq, and voted in favour of loosening alcohol restrictions and beer sales.

“We thought it was going to be easier if people learned how to use it,” he said.

Alcohol isn’t really the problem, he said—it’s a trigger than can unleash violent behaviour when it’s abused.

And people living with issues that drive them to substance abuse have few local options for treatment, he said. They have to go to Kuujjuaq or farther south for treatment.

Kulu Tukalak says it could take years for Puvirniturmiut to adapt to more responsible drinking habits.

“This is still very new and we’re still going through the trials,” said Tukalak, who has served as president to the co-op’s board of directors for the last year.

Even before co-op sales started, the community had a problem with alcohol, he said, so residents saw an opportunity to take charge and keep some of the money spent on alcohol in the community.

Tukalak couldn’t say what the co-op made in alcohol sales in 2017. But the co-op redistributes that money to community groups and initiatives through an application process.

The co-op’s biggest recipient is a breakfast program that receives $85,000 to serve a morning meal to students at both of Puvirnituq’s schools.

The community’s recreation committee and hockey program are other recipients.

“The direction we aim for is to reduce alcohol abuse,” Tukalak said.

“But the excitement is still there. We’re still practising and learning,” he said.

“Maybe in three or four years, our young people can learn to enjoy a few beers in a normal way.”

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(19) Comments:

#1. Posted by Lets not make any rash decitions, yet... on November 28, 2017

Let’s not fool ourselves and expect alcohol comsumption to “normalise” within 6 months of easing up on these “restrictions”. I’d give it a generation or two before we start seeying any positive results. But it starts here with letting people to choose on thier own when and when not to comsume. It took the europeen settlers centuries to do so.. give it a couple of générations for the Inuit, at least..

#2. Posted by BOOZER on November 28, 2017

I agree very much with the comments of number 1

#3. Posted by All in for liquor sales on November 28, 2017

You know that when the news reports “Lawyers who work in the criminal court in this Nunavik community estimate that around 90 per cent of their clients’ cases are related to abusive alcohol use, creating violence at home and on the road.”
That it is the same 10-15 people in and out of court. This is not an epidemic, it’s a few idiot individuals who can’t figure out their problems and don’t have a support system.
It’s another ‘fear-mongering’ tactic the news uses to install the fear of liquor/FIRE WATER.
I know lets ban those 90% from purchasing alcohol and you’ll see a drop again, instead they get a slap on the wrist, a restraining order and in 2 hours those same 10-15 people are back at it again, adding to the criminal court cases.

#4. Posted by I value inuit on November 28, 2017

let’s not compare what europeans or americans hope they get used to the alcohol. We Inuit have too much hurts, from sexual, emotional, and other abuses, we have to heal first, right now we are self disstructing and Québec Qovt, is laughing at us knowing we will eventually die from it.  nobody or any community is not getting better from alcohol. we have to realise sooner not later that alcohol is very bad. !!!!

#5. Posted by Children need protection on November 28, 2017

I feel for the children who see and think this abuse is normal and if they get traumatized by seeing violent behaviour a lot or even worst if they get abused, then it will take much much longer and could become a serious problem for them and their children. Children’s programs will help but the regular abuse of alcohol will affect them no matter what and make the programs to help them almost useless.

Prayers for your community.

#6. Posted by End of the world on November 28, 2017

And , just think , REEFER MADNESS becomes law , in July of 2018, we are doomed.

#7. Posted by Social Drinker on November 28, 2017

Yes, it is alway the same certain type of people that ruins it for the rest of us. I say if they use the Gladue cause(or whatever it is that they use just to get charges lowered for being native and with past trauma) in there court charge, then they should automatically be put on the no sale list for certain amount of time. Say 5-10 years so they can get there life and mind back in order. Put a beer and wine store in all communities and then after a generation or two northerners will be able to have a few beer here and there without many problems.

#8. Posted by Take it away on November 28, 2017

Alcohol should be banned forever from inuit communities. Inuit don’t make the stuff, and it’s not theirs to have. They have sick problems with it. More than any other people past , present , and future. Until inuit can take over production, and be self actulized in production and distribution, I say don’t let them have it. Why let a substance from another culture killed so many people. Right now , it’s not up to the inuit, it’s up to the government of quebec and Canada. Let’s save the inuit from self destruction. Let’s get tired of reading and writing , and complaining about the people and their lack of control with a good, otherwise beer, wine or a nice drink. People in the north that can handle a drink, is tired or the same old story.

#9. Posted by Full access denied on November 28, 2017

Since Nunavik communities that sell alcohol are doing so with all the restrictions, because of the crazy behaviours, .it would only make sense that when pot becomes legal, that restrictions would also be in place. Going to be some interesting behaviours coming to a community near you soon anyway.

#10. Posted by What a story on November 28, 2017

It’s like a yo yo, to read the news about beer and wine sales in Nunavik. You got one story coming from even the police saying things are quieter since the sales. Then you got contradictions to that, with this story. Can anyone get it right, and stop the denial. Alcohol is not handled well among inuit,  period, no ands , ifs , or buts.

#11. Posted by Cambay on November 28, 2017

Lets not pick on poor old booze. lets not ban it from northern communities. Lets ban the same old inuks and whites and all others who cause all the trouble when drunk. After 2 alcohol related charges you become banned from drinking alcohol in any northern community. If caught or cause trouble drunk again then auto jail time for you.  Not bs house arrest.  JAIL time.  Lets not forget that if booze is not touched it causes no problems.  But rather just sits there looking pretty on the self. Booze is not the problem.  Its the big losers that drink it with no respect or control.

#12. Posted by Control my drinking on November 29, 2017

If you have no control over alcohol, it may not be your fault. You are probably ill. And if your are ill, then you cannot have alcohol. I take the point that commenter number 11 makes, but it says nothing about the illness. That comment speaks as if the person has control, and it’s all their fault. I don’t agree that it’s all their fault. It’s an illness, that is controlled only by having no alcohol. I do agree, however, that a decision to take the stuff must rest with the person. The person can decide to have it , or not. But once taken, the person illness takes over. That why I will always argue for the total ban of alcohol in inuit communities. The illness I refer to is dominant among the inuit population in regards to alcohol. You can accept that or you can deny that. I accept that.

#13. Posted by Concerned teacher on November 29, 2017

I don’t know what the answer is, and there is no fast solution. All I know is that every pay day too many kids are tired, angry, sometimes violent because they’ve been up all night, and some have witnessed things no kid should see. They talk about how much they hate alcohol, they hate seeing their parents/family members drunk and out of control. They hate to witness violence or have violence done to them. Too many kids think it’s normal to drink daily, to drink to the point of “blacking out”, to drink and fight. It’s hard for them to know they have a choice when they see so many people out of control in the streets and sometimes in their homes. It really hurts children and teens to see the adults in their lives (family, and community members) out of control - they lose respect for adults and don’t want to listen when the adults try to give them rules to follow. I really hope action can be taken to help the youth, who are the future of the community.

#14. Posted by Medicine for Illness on November 29, 2017

There are medicines for illnesses and even cures for some.  Alcoholism is not a brain function end state.  Many alcoholics have recovered from it.  They have been able to reprogram themselves to cease consuming this substance. 

It is a control vs. no control state, an addiction. 

People can also drink and not become patients. 

If you drink, try to drink with understanding of yourself and your drink.

#15. Posted by How the joy of drinking is gone on November 29, 2017

Having alcohol can be a joyful event. There are many people, North and south who still have that joy. In the north, too many people don’t have that joy, and probably never did have it. Surely those with a joyful life, and use alcohol accordingly are still enjoying it, and stay away from the trouble makers who don’t know the joy of it. In a way, people that enjoy alcohol, care little about those trouble makers. What is tiring, is the continuous news about people that can’t enjoy alcohol. The jails and court houses are full, and the joyful drinkers continue their joyful life, looking down on the unfortunate drinkers, and rightfully so.

#16. Posted by Drunks still buy? on November 29, 2017

Are drunks still permitted to purchase alcohol? The answer is suppose to be no. If you go to the co-op store while beer and wine is suppose to be sold to sober people, you can easily see drunks in the line and succeeding in getting alcohol. You’ll see a few sad looking guards by the door, looking and staring , and in most cases afraid to approach their fellow man, and stop them from entering the line up. Or the cashier too appears afraid of the drunk in line, and lets them have their demanded purchase. Off course, it all depends on who is afraid of who in the community. How can any respect be given out to this scenarios cowards.

#17. Posted by generation to generation on November 30, 2017

from my point of view, this generation is drinking getting drunk with children having no other choice but to watch family drunk, fighting, who in the first place wanted to have a little fun in front of their children, after 10 years this kid who watched what was happening in the family will surely be doing the same thing but worst.
now we hear in the north that someone being killed alcohol related. has someone done a little research why Inuit are killing their fellow Inuit? for those people who we hear has killed someone were they in a family where their was a alcohol involved in the house? those kinds of research may be needed with all the news we hear in The Great White North.

#18. Posted by Social Suffering on November 30, 2017

There are many valid opinions and comments, however they tend to blame the individual angrily, others tend to focus on the past impacts of colonialism which continues to this day.
I think that a comprehensive approach using different perspectives should be used, this issue is tragic and paralyzing impacting all facets of the community, there has been succes in other communities let us look and learn, using the social determinants of addiciton framework is also helpful, even medical professional have embraced the framework that looks at addicition within a larger framework including housing, exclusion history, sense of belonging , remoteness , goverment, institutions etc.. loss of culture , this constant bickering will not result in much light , the suffering is pervasive and ubiquitous, let us work and think with solidarity

#19. Posted by Too much abuse on December 05, 2017

Alcohol abuse is seeing:
-People at work drunk (like patient services, drivers, administrators)
-People who look unhealthy (beer belly, bloated looking, hungover)
-People who are spending a lot of money on alcohol
-Absent employees(no staff to carry out services )
-pregnant women drunk (and others thinking there’s no problem with it)
-children sleeping in furnace rooms
We can go on and on, but these are very few examples

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