Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik January 20, 2016 - 1:30 pm

Nunavik holiday ride service celebrates third successful run

“It’s very popular"

SARAH ROGERS
Nez Rouge volunteers, from left, Robert Levy-Powell, Nellie Iquq and Louisa Kuananack helped drive home Puvirnituq residents and Christmas party goers over an 11-day period. (PHOTO COURTESY OF L. ITTUKALLAK)
Nez Rouge volunteers, from left, Robert Levy-Powell, Nellie Iquq and Louisa Kuananack helped drive home Puvirnituq residents and Christmas party goers over an 11-day period. (PHOTO COURTESY OF L. ITTUKALLAK)

The Christmas season has come and gone in Nunavik, but one community is still celebrating the success of a ride-share program that ran over the holidays for a third consecutive year.

Volunteers in Puvirnituq first adopted the southern Quebec-based program called Opération Nez Rouge (Operation Red Nose) in 2013, which takes drivers back home if they’ve had too much to drink.

The program is a bit broader in Puvirnituq; it’s designed to help transport anyone, including elders and residents without their own vehicle, during the holiday period when Christmas games are on each night at the community hall.

Isaruit, a local addictions support group, has run the program each year with the help of the social services department at the local Inuulitsivik health centre.

“It’s very popular,” said Lisa-Louie Ittukallak, an Inuulitsivik administrator who helped coordinate this year’s Nez Rouge volunteers.

“It’s very cold out and people are having more parties,” she said. “They can call, instead of drinking and driving. They know there’s a driver there.”

This past season, Ittukallak managed to recruit between 20 and 30 volunteer drivers, who offered their time from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, from 9:00 p.m. until about 3:00 a.m.

When people needed a ride, they would call into the local radio station, and the announcer would broadcast a message asking a driver to pick them up.

Ittukallak estimates that Nez Rouge picked up about 1,000 passengers in the 11 days during which the service operated.

It’s even starting to take on its own name, she said; elders pronounce it “Nee-roo,” while some in the community have translated it directly to Inuktitut — qingak aupartuk.

With the introduction of beer and wine sales in the Hudson coast community last fall, there were some concerns that there could be an increase in incidents of driving under the influence.

But this year’s Nez Rouge volunteers did not pick up more intoxicated passengers than usual, Ittukallak said.

“Surprisingly, it hasn’t been that bad, honestly,” she said. “There are [fewer] accidents. Maybe because there less strong alcohol available.”

With no taxi service in Puvirnituq, a town whose footprint grows larger each year with new housing, Ittukallak thinks the community will see Nez Rouge for years to come.

A group in Salluit has also asked Nez Rouge organizers in Puvirnituq for help to get the same program implemented in the Hudson Strait community next years.

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