Tuktoyaktuk in April 2021. Meaghan Brackenbury/Cabin Radio
Alcohol will be banned for two weeks in Tuktoyaktuk as community leaders try to address complaints about intoxication in public.
Mayor Erwin Elias said people had been “roaming the streets, yelling down the road drunk” as levels of alcohol use remain high in the Arctic coastal hamlet.
“People have been requesting that the hamlet do something, even though some of this stuff is out of our hands,” Elias said on Tuesday. “We’re trying to give the RCMP the tools they need to make their job easier, and hopefully something like this works before Christmas.”
The community posted two temporary prohibition orders to Facebook on Tuesday – orders that ban the consumption or purchase of alcohol within 25 kilometres of the hamlet office between November 25 and December 10.
NWT communities must apply for prohibition orders from the territorial government. Various communities used them at times during the Covid-19 pandemic, and Elias said Tuktoyaktuk routinely uses prohibition orders during jamboree season as they “tend to calm the people down.”
At the moment, each prohibition order only lasts for up to 10 days but communities can request to use more than one back-to-back. Proposed changes to the territory’s liquor rules would allow one request for a prohibition order of up to 30 days, without the ability to use them consecutively.
“There is only so much the hamlet can do and this is one of the tools we do have that we can try to use,” Elias told Cabin Radio.
“Hopefully people are a little more cautious about their whereabouts and where they are partying. It’s tough for the community to see this stuff every day.”
Lucy Kuptana, the hamlet’s senior administrative officer, said calls to RCMP and the health centre have not slowed in the intervening months and staff are overworked.
“We only have four RCMP members in the community right now and they are constantly being called out,” she said.
Kuptana hopes the declaring of a prohibition order will slow things down sufficiently for the community’s support network to recover a little.
Elias said the tragedies of this year’s suicides remain “in the back of everybody’s mind” and community leaders are working to keep people busy and active.
“Finding a way to calm things down is what we’re really trying to do,” he said.
Kuptana said activities have increased at the hamlet’s Kitti Hall community centre, the arena is opening up, and young residents have begun a “House of Hope” each evening – a place they can “gather and be young people,” operated by and for the community’s youth.
Elias said the House of Hope has been “a big hit from the start.”
“We’re doing everything we can. We’re working together, which is huge. That’s the main thing,” the mayor said.
“That’s what it takes. Once the community is working together and all the agencies are involved, I think we are going to get out of this. We’re going in the right direction.”
The NWT Help Line is available at any time of day or night on 1-800-661-0844. Kids Help Phone is also available around the clock at 1-800-668-6868 or you can use live chat or text options instead of calling. If you’re trying to help someone who is talking about suicide, the GNWT has a list of resources.