Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak has two young sons who were given an earlier curfew on weekends after alcohol restrictions were voted down in a January plebiscite.
Mikkungwak and his wife force their children to come into the house earlier for safety reasons. With the end of the Alcohol Education Committee, it’s become more common to see drunken individuals on the street, intoxicated drivers and underage drinkers, he said.
“I can definitely say for Family Services, the Department of Health and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, they’ve been very overwhelmed with the workload,” he said.
Statistics from the RCMP show that the number of files – based on the police looking into incidents – climbed to 868 from Feb. 1 to Sept. 1 of this year compared to 588 during the same period in 2017. Likewise, the number of incidents involving charges jumped to 61 during that six-month period in 2018, versus 38 in the same six months of 2017. The number of alcohol-related calls was not specified. Although the plebiscite was held in January, April was the first full month without alcohol restrictions in place.
Mikkungwak emphasized that there are plenty of responsible drinkers in the community and many continue traditional practises, leading a healthy lifestyle.
“It’s not all negative,” he said, but for the minority who are addicted to alcohol, the increased access to liquor has led to problems.
“When you do see intoxicated people out on the roads, it’s very concerning for small children,” he said.
In conversation with residents of Rankin Inlet, Mikkungwak said they advised him that it takes time for alcohol issues to “settle down” after removing restrictions.
The Baker Lake plebiscite passed by a narrow margin, with 60.1 per cent support for removing liquor restrictions, just beyond the 60 per cent threshold for effecting change.
“A vote really does make a difference,” said Mikkungwak. “It’s very important for people to go vote and understand what they’re voting (for).”